Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Written by: Himaja Challapalli
Workers’ rights should be a central focus of development
- Joseph Stiglitz
When we see the demographic transition of India, about 12 million people are being added to the working population each year.The term working population refers to the population who are employed in a specified occupation and also includes the people who are eligible to work. Now, employment is the state of being employed or having paid for the work done in any organization. Employment is a key part of the socio-economic development process and provides financial freedom to individuals. Employment, being an important element in every individual life and in the economy, became necessary to establish laws to protect the rights, interests of individuals, their well- being and safety. The employment law is an umbrella term that covers various major laws at the workplace such as Minimum Wages Act, 1948; Maternity Benefits Act, 1961; The Factories Act, 1948 etc. These laws play a significant role in protecting the rights of employees in work environments. The organizations are to adhere to the laws and regulations passed and are governed by various laws. A list of essential rights of an employee under the various laws and regulations are given below:
Constitution of India
Article 15 of the Constitution of India strictly prohibits any kind of discrimination against any citizen based on religion, race, caste, sex. The rule of equality in public employment is being a feature of the Indian Constitution. Article 16(2) states 'no citizen can be discriminated against, or be ineligible for any employment under the state, on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or residence or any of them. Article 23 prohibits forced labour and Article 24 prohibits employment of children in factories below the age of 14 years. Article 39(d) supports equal pay for equal work and Article 39(e) prohibits abuse of health and strength of workers. Article 42 provides the state to make provisions for 'securing humane conditions of work and for maternity relief'; Article 43 mentions 'living wage of workers to ensure a decent standard of life' and Article 43-A for 'participation of workers in management of industries '.
Minimum Wages Act, 1948
The Minimum Wages Act provide for 'fixing of minimum rates of wages in certain employment’. The Act guarantees the employees a minimum wage and should be accorded with the workers' cost of living. The main factors that need to be considered to fix the minimum wage are cost of living, type of work, working hours, region etc. The work that is forced where the wage is below the minimum wage is said to be forced labour. This violates Article 23 of the Constitution of India, 1949 which prohibits human trafficking and forced labour. The act gives rules to fix different minimum rates for different types of employment, for different localities etc. Section 13 of the Act provides for fixing hours for a normal working day which includes a rest period for every seven days, to provide payment for the rest that is not less than the overtime rate. The Act also provides for the maintenance of records such as the particulars of the employee, the work done, the wages paid to them etc. Section 22 of the Minimum Wages Act penalties for certain offences, punishment for contradicting section 13.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
The Act provides for before and after childbirth benefits for a female employee in an organization. The Act provides the duration of paid leave for pregnant- women. i.e., maternity leave. It has now been increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks through The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 and however, a woman with two or more children is entitled to 12 weeks maternity leave. The prenatal leave has also been increased from 6 to 8 weeks. A woman who adopts a child under the age of three months is entitled to 12 weeks of adoption leave. The Act also protects the interests of female employees by strict guidelines to the employers not to employ them within six weeks of delivery or miscarriage. They could not be dismissed on the grounds of their pregnancy and on account of such absence and even if they are, they can claim maternity benefits. There should be no deduction of wages and it should be a paid maternity leave.
The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
The Act provides for the payment of bonuses to the persons employed in certain establishments. Any organization which is at least 5 years to its establishment and has 20 or more employees in an accounting year is legally bound to pay a bonus to its employees. The salary or the eligibility limit should be Rs.21000/- in order to claim the bonus. Section 10 of the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 makes every organization bound to pay the minimum bonus of 8.33% and Section 31 states that the maximum bonus should not exceed 20% of the salary or wage of an employee. The exemption would be for the persons who have been dismissed from the service due to fraud, violent behaviour etc.
The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
The Payment of Gratuity is one of the retirement benefits given to the employees. The Act provides a statutory right for the payment of gratuity to employees engaged in services for more than five years in an establishment. It is paid as 15 days of salary for every year of service done by an employee in an organization during retirement or separation. The amount of gratuity increases with a number of services. The maximum amount of gratuity payable to an employee was increased from Rs.3,50,000/- to Rs.20,00,000 through The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Act, 2018. It should exceed the maximum amount mentioned. Any employee who has been dismissed from the services due to disorderly conduct and is proven losses this right upon dismissal. The gratuity is tax-free and this exemption was covered in Section 10(10) of the Income Tax Act,1961.
Other Rights according to various acts:
Equal Payment of Salaries
Both men and women have to be paid equally. There should be equal pay for equal work. This is protected under The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 which suggests in the name itself, provides for the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers without any discrimination.
2. Working Hours and Overtime
The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 gives employees an overtime rate if they worked more than normal working hours. A rest day should be there for every week and in case one over-work, he/ she should be paid an amount at a rate not less than the overtime rate.
3. Employee Provident Fund
The Employees Provident Fund Organization of India (EPFO) manages the provident fund for all employees who receives a salary in India. Any organization with more than 20 employees has to register with the EPFO and both the employees and employer should make contributions of 12% equally towards an employee provident fund with the aim to provide them with retirement benefits. The withdrawn amount will be taxed if made before the completion of 5 years.
4. Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the workplace:
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 has been passed to prevent sexual harassment and protect them at workplaces. The Act defines "sexual harassment" under Sec 2(n) which includes 'any unwelcome act or behaviour which directly or by implication demands for sexual favours, physical contact, showing pornography, any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. The Act mandates organizations with ten or more employees to form an internal complaint committee to aid the victims of sexual harassment. The committee should include a senior woman as a member, two other employees as members and a non-governmental member.
Employment laws are necessary to provide a fair amount of protection to employees. The rights to a safe working place with basic amenities, right to appropriate working hours, right to any assured incentive etc. are protected under the law. A healthy work environment is a right of all and it becomes important to be aware of laws and regulations that are a part of employment so as to get what is rightfully yours. It is our duty to be aware of our rights and responsibilities that are legally and constitutionally protected against certain practices so to promote a happy and healthy work environment.
Hindustan Times, available at: https://www.hindustantimes.com/health/india-adding-12-million-people-to-working-population-every-year-harsh-vardhan-101613884150950.html (Visited on June 26, 2021). Constitution of India, 1949. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (Act 11 of 1948) Maternity and Work, Labor Law, available at: https://paycheck.in/labour-law-india/maternity-and-work (Visited on 26 June 2021). The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Act 53 of 1961) The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 (Act 21 of 1965) The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 (Act 39 of 1972) The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 (Act 25 of 1976) Employees’ Provident Fund Organization, India, available at: https://www.epfindia.gov.in/site_en/AboutEPFO.php (Visited on June 26, 2021). The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (Act 14 of 2013)