Firstpost Explains: A look at the benefits, provisions of Worker Safety Code Bill and current scenario in India

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved for the introduction of the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 in the Parliament. The proposal aims to enhance the coverage of the safety, health and working conditions provisions compared to the current scenario.

 Firstpost Explains: A look at the benefits, provisions of Worker Safety Code Bill and current scenario in India

File image of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. PTI

The bill will merge the already existing 13 labour laws into a single code and approve the third phase of the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana. The decision was taken at the Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Environment and Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

The bill includes provisions of the laws, including the Factories Act, the Mines Act, the Dock Workers Act, the Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees Act and the Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act.

Benefits

The proposed bill is expected to benefit 400 million workers, as reported by The Economic Times. The proposed code will be applicable for all trades, including IT establishments and service sectors that employ 10 or more workers. It will also be applicable to mines and docks that employ even one worker. The basic aim of proposed bill is to provide safe and healthy work environment to all the workforce in the country, said PIB.

Provisions

The proposed bill has various occupational safety provisions. As reported by The Hindu, the provisions of the code makes it mandatory for all employers to provide a free annual medical check-up to all its employees. The issue of appointment letters to all employees has been made compulsory.

As reported by The Business Line, the proposed bill has envisaged welfare provisions such as a crèche, canteen, first aid and welfare officer. Another provision of the bill says that a part of the penalty for violation of provisions leading to death or serious injury to any person may be given to the victim or the legal heirs of the victim. The part of penalty would help used in rehabilitation of injured worker or provide financial support to the family of deceased.

The bill also has provisions for women workers working during night shifts. “Women permitted to work beyond 7 pm and before 6 am subject to the safety, holidays, working hours or any other condition as prescribed by appropriate government in respect of prescribed establishments. However, only after taking their consent for night work (sic),”the bill says.

Provisions for ease of doing business in the proposed bill prescribes one registration for an establishment. This provision of one license, one return will help save time, resources and other efforts of the organisations.

Current situation in the country

More than 40 Central laws and around 100 state laws govern the subject of labour welfare in the country.

Speaking to Business Today, former NITI Aayog chairman Arvind Panagariya said, "The labour situation is incredibly complicated, when you go from six workers to seven in a firm, the Trade Unions Act kicks in. When you go from nine to ten, the Factories Act kicks in. And when you go from 19 to 20, something else kicks in, as happens again when you go from 49 to 50 and 99 to 100."

“The biggest difficulty with our labour laws is that the multiplicity of labour laws has been a nightmare for employers and employees. As our economy evolved and the labour force grew, the government kept adding new laws without considering that contradictions might arise with older laws. So 2014-19 saw a repeal of over 10 laws seen as redundant’’, said Santosh Mehrotra, a professor of economics at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, to Hindustan Times.

The decision of proposing a consolidated labour law comes a week after the Cabinet gave its go ahead to a labour code on wages, signaling the government’s commitment to push labour reforms in its second term. Labour minister Santosh Gangwar said the bill will soon be tabled in the Parliament.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jul 11, 2019 16:54:12 IST