Minimum wages and Factories Act etc.

The objective of the Minimum Wages Act of 1948 is to ensure that a minimum rate of wages is paid to all those who are engaged in wage employment. The state and union governments are empowered to declare minimum wages (Section 3) for employment categories given in schedule I and II of the act. The act also specifies the structure of minimum wage (Section 4) and the procedure for fixing and revising minimum wages at regular intervals (Section 5).

Laws Related to working hours, Conditions of services, and employment:

The factories Act of 1948 is one of the most important legislations covering the manufacturing sector. The act provides safeguards for workers to protect their health, provides for safety at the workplace when dealing with machinery, improves the physical conditions of the workplace, and provides welfare amenities.

The act also restricts the hours of work, provides for overtime and spread of working hours (Sections 51, 54, 55 and 56 ),employment of young persons (Sections 69, 70, 71,72, and 73) and places restriction on employment of women during the night hours (Section 66).

Factories are approved, licensed, and registered under the factories Act (Section 6) and authorities are appointed by the government [i.e. Chief Inspector of factories and Inspectors (Sections 8 and 9) The Certifying Surgeons (Section 10) to ensure implementation of the act. The act also provides for the appointment of welfare officers in factories employing more than 500 workers (Section 49) and safety officers (Section 40 B) with appropriate qualifications.

While the factory worker is protected and given rights under the act (Section 111A), there are obligations placed on workers to abide by the rules set in the interests of health, safety and welfare (Section 111) Violating workers are liable to be punished.

The Shops and Commercial Establishments Act of 1961 has seen enactments from most states of India. In fact, state acts existed even before the central act came into force in 1961. With the growth of the IT and ITES sector, the act has become significant due to the nature of the work. IT and ITES firms are covered by the act. The act deals with important work related aspects like restrictions on working hours, the period of work, extra wages for overtime, and earned and sick leave. The act also prohibits employment of children, underage people, and women during night hours and lays down the procedure for dismissal, discharge and termination of employment. In the interest of encouraging firms function better, as many states have made amendments in the state acts, particularly to allow employment of women during night hours and even permit 24 hour operations.

Laws related to equality and empowerment of women:

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 a social welfare oriented law aimed at empowering women, provides security (both employment and financial) for women employees working in certain establishments (except those dismissed for gross misconduct since the act prohibits discharge/dismissed during the period or pregnancy), for defined periods before and after child birth.

Thus, Section 5 of the act makes, it a right for, women to avail maternity benefits including pay and leave and employees liable to provide the same. Some states have added provisions that provide for additional benefits such as free medical aid, maternity bonus, provision of crèches, and additional rest intervals.

The act also provides for cash and non cash benefits, including a maximum period of leave of 12 weeks, divided equally between pre and post birth periods. Non cash benefits include a reduced work lo-ad (Section 4.3) a medical bonus of the employer does not provide pre and post natal support (Section 8) and two nursing breaks every working day till the child attains 15 months (Section 11).

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