The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020
On September 22, 2020, Parliament passed the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code; the Industrial Relations Code; and the Code on Social Security. The three were made Acts on September 28. These, along with the Code on Wages, 2019, aim to combine India’s 29 labour laws into four codes.
first Code mentioned here – the Occupational Safety, Health and Working
Conditions Code, 2020 – seeks to consolidate and amend the laws regulating the
occupational safety, health and working conditions of the persons employed in
an establishment and connected matters.
86-page Code contains 14 chapters: Preliminary (Chapter I); Registration (Chapter
II); Duties of employer and employees, etc. (Chapter III); Occupational Safety and
Health (Chapter IV); Health, safety and working conditions (Chapter V); Welfare
provisions (chapter VI); Hours of work and annual leave with wages (Chapter VII);
Maintenance of registers, records and returns (Chapter VIII); Inspector-cum-Facilitators
and other Authority (Chapter XI); Special provision relating to employment of
women (Chapter X); Special provisions for contract labour and inter-State migrant
worker, etc. (Chapter XI); Offences and penalties (Chapter XII); Social security
fund (Chapter XIII); and Miscellaneous (Chapter
Which Acts does the Code replace?
The Code replaces 13 central laws: Factories Act, 1948; Plantations Labour Act, 1951; Mines Act, 1952; Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955; Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958; Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961; Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966; Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970; Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976; Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979; Cine-Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1981; Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986; and Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
What is a ‘factory’ under this Code?
‘Factory’ means any premises where 20 or more workers are working, or were working on any day in the preceding 12 months, and in any part of which a manufacturing process is being carried on, or is usually carried on, using power.
A factory also includes any premises where 40 or more workers are working, or were working on any day in the preceding 12 months, and in any part of which a manufacturing process is being carried on, or is usually carried on, using power – except a mobile unit belonging to the armed forces, a railways running shed, or a hotel, restaurant or eating place.
What is the Code’s mandate on the health, safety, working conditions and welfare of workers?
Employers – the Code states – shall be responsible for maintaining the health, safety and working conditions of employees, as prescribed by the central government. The central government may prescribe provisions on such matters as cleanliness and hygiene; an environment free of dust, noxious gas, fumes and other impurities; arranging a sufficient amount of latrines and urinals for male, female and transgender employees, and maintaining hygiene in them; effective arrangements for treating waste and effluents; and any other arrangement which the government considers appropriate.
Employers shall be responsible for providing welfare measures to their employees, as prescribed by the central government. The measures may include separate places to bathe and locker rooms for male, female and transgender employees; adequate washing facilities, which are separate for male, female and transgender employees; seating arrangements for all employees who have to stand while working; first-aid boxes or cupboards with contents readily accessible during all working hours; in case of mines – medical examinations for those employed or to be employed; and any other measure considered appropriate by the government.
What is 'contract labour'? Under what conditions can such labour be employed?
‘Contract labour’ refers to those who are deemed to be employed in the work of an establishment when they are hired by or through a contractor with or without the knowledge of the 'principal employer', and it includes ‘inter-State migrant workers’. ('Principal employer' refers to the owner of a factory or mine, the head of a government office, or the supervisor in case of any other establishment.)
Such labour does not include workers who are regularly employed by a contractor for any activity in the contractor’s establishment, if the worker and contractor engage in 'mutually accepted standards of the conditions of employment', and the worker receives periodic increments, social security coverage and other welfare benefits in accordance with the law.
The Code says that the sections on contract labour – Sections 45-58 – shall apply to all establishments where 50 or more such workers are employed, or were employed on any day of the preceding 12 months. It shall not apply to any establishment in which work of only an ‘intermittent or casual’ nature is performed.
Under this section, contractors shall only supply or engage contract labour in an establishment, or undertake or execute work through contract labour, if it is in accordance with the licence issued to them under this Code.
Contractors shall not charge the contract labour with any fee or commission – directly or indirectly, and in whole or in part. They shall be responsible for paying wages to the contract labour employed by them, before the expiry of such period as may be prescribed by the ‘appropriate Government’ (centre or state). Contractors shall disburse wages through bank transfer or another electronic mode, and inform the principal employer of the amount so paid.
The Code states that employing contract labour for the ‘core activities’ of an establishment – activities that are essential or necessary, for which the establishment is set up – is prohibited. The principal employer may hire contract labour for a core activity if, in the establishment, such an activity is normally done through a contractor; if the activity does not require full time workers for the major portion of working hours in a day; and in case of a sudden increase in the volume of work in the core activity, which needs to be accomplished in a specified time.
What are the working hours for adults as stipulated in the Code? What are the wages for overtime work?
No worker shall be required or allowed to work in any establishment, or class of establishments, for more than eight hours a day. No worker shall be allowed to work in an establishment for more than six days in a week. In case work exceeds the prescribed number of hours, the worker shall be paid at twice the rate of wages for overtime work. The period of overtime work shall be calculated on a daily or weekly basis, whichever is more favourable to the worker.
What does the Code say about the employment of women?
The Code states that women shall be entitled to be employed in all establishments, and for all types of work. They may also be employed – with their consent – before 6 a.m. and beyond 7 p.m., if the employer abides by all conditions of safety, holidays and working hours, that may be prescribed by the ‘appropriate Government’.
If the ‘appropriate Government’ considers that employing women in an establishment or class of establishments, is dangerous for their health and safety, the government may require the employer to put in place additional safeguards before employing them.
What are the Code’s provisions on ‘inter-State migrant workers’?
‘Inter-State migrant workers’ refer to those who have been recruited directly by the employer, or indirectly through a contractor, in one state for employment in an establishment situated in another state. Such workers also include those who have come by themselves from one state and obtained employment in an establishment in another state.
The Code states that the sections on ‘inter-State migrant workers’ – Sections 59-65 – shall apply to every establishment in which 10 or more such workers are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding 12 months.
In establishments where such workers are employed, it shall be the contractor’s or the employer’s duty to ensure suitable conditions of work; to report – in case of a fatal accident or serious bodily injury to the worker – the event to specified authorities in both states, as well as the next of kin of the worker; and extend all benefits available to any worker in the establishment to ‘inter-State migrant workers’.
The employer shall pay – for an entire year, in a lump sum – every ‘inter-State migrant worker’ employed in their establishment, the amount it takes to go to the worker’s native place and return – in such manner, and subject to such conditions, as prescribed by the ‘appropriate Government’.
The government shall make schemes to provide ‘inter-State migrant workers’ with the benefits of the public distribution system – either in their native state or the state where they are employed; and for making such benefits ‘portable’ for migrant workers engaged in building or other construction work. The ‘appropriate Government’ may provide a toll free helpline for such workers, in a manner which shall be prescribed by the government. The government may take measures to study the conditions of such workers.
When is an establishment exempt from this Code?
The ‘appropriate Government’ may direct that all or any of the provisions of this Code, or any rules made under it, shall not apply to any establishment or class of establishments during a specified period.
If the state government is satisfied that it is necessary to create more economic activities and employment opportunities ‘in public interest’, the government may – subject to such conditions as it thinks fit – exempt any new factory or class of factories from all or any of the provisions of this Code for a specified duration.
Focus and Factoids by Sayani Rakshit.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
28 Sep, 2020