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What are the Important Labour Laws in India?

Labour law is customarily known as ‘the law of employment’. Primarily labour policy in India is been progressing in response to specific needs of the situation to suit requirements of a planned economic development and social justice. And it has two-fold objectives, specifically maintaining industrial peace and promoting the welfare of the labour. Labour laws sheath three aspects.

  • Industrial Relations
  • Workplace Health and safety
  • Employment standards

Legislating Power

To legislate on the matters concerning labour laws both the Central government and the State government are endowed with the power. With respect to the entries mentioned in the Union List of Schedule VII of the Constitution the Central government has the power to legislate.

  • Firstly Regulation of labour and safety in mines and oilfields,
  • Secondly industrial disputes concerning Union employees, and
  • Union agencies and institutions for professional, vocational or technical training.

On the other hand, with respect to the entries mentioned in the Concurrent List of Schedule VII of the Constitution. Both the Central Government and State Governments have the legislation power.

Trade unions, industrial and labour disputes, Social security and social insurance, employment and unemployment, and Welfare of labour including conditions of work, provident funds, employers’ liability, workmen’s compensation, invalidity and old age pensions and maternity benefits.

Classification of Labour Laws

There are more than a hundred legislation dealing with labour law in India. Therefore, it’s imperative to classify labour laws for the purpose of understanding them. Thus, basis of sanction and enforcement is one way of classifying it. While, the basis of the purpose and the objective of the legislation the other way of classifying.

The prior type of classification is as listed below:
  • Primarily the labour laws enacted by the Central Government, the responsibility of enforcement of which lies solely on the Central Government.
  • Secondly the laws enacted by the Central Government, the responsibility of enforcement of which lies on both the Central Government and the State Government.
  • Next, the laws enacted by the State Government and enforced by them only.
  • Subsequently the laws enacted and enforced by various State Governments which apply to respective states.

Dividing the legislation under broad categories is the other way of classification.

Laws dealing with:
  • Industrial relations.
  • Remuneration- payment, deduction and related issues.
  • The social security of the employees.
  • The nature and conditions of service and employment such as the issue of working hours, weekly holidays, the interval between working hours, etc.
  • The issues related to gender equality and women empowerment.
  • Social outrage and prohibiting them such as bonded labour, child labour, etc.
  • Employment and training of the employees.

To get an overview of the labour laws, we shall be dealing with the latter type of classification.

Laws dealing with Industrial relations

The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947

This an important legislation which deals with the issues of industrial dispute, closure, lock-out, strike, retrenchment, lay-off, etc. Prior to this, the Trade Disputes Act, 1929 solved the industrial disputes. However, there were some immanent defects in the Act which was sought to be removed by enacting a fresh legislation i.e. the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Therefore, to get the industrial disputes resolved the Act provides for an elaborate mechanism. Moreover there are several authorities under the Act for the same which involves Conciliation officers, Labour Courts, Boards of Conciliation, Tribunals, and National Tribunals. We have discussed the main features of the Act in the subsequent points.

  • At the first instance the industrial dispute has to be referred for conciliation.
  • Secondly the dispute may be referred to the industrial tribunal either by the parties or by the State government. And the parties refer the dispute by an agreement with respect to the same.
  • Next strike and lockouts are regulated by the Act. The Act lays down certain circumstances in which they are prohibited.
  • Subsequently the Act also proffers compensation to the workmen in case of lay-off or retrenchment or transfer/closure of an undertaking.
The Trade Unions Act, 1926

Trade Unions are vital to the smooth functioning of the industry. The Trade Unions collectively assert the demands of the workmen and make it easy for the workmen to negotiate with the employer. This is commonly called ‘collective bargaining’.

So, this Trade Unions Act, 1926 offers for the establishment of the Trade Unions and lays down provisions with respect to the registration of such Trade Unions and their rights & liabilities. No restrictions are placed on the objects which the Trade Unions can take up. Trade Unions which do not get registered are not governed by the provisions of the Act.

*Laws dealing with remuneration- payment, deduction and related issues

Payment of Wages Act, 1936

This Act came into existence against the great injustice scenery that was being done to the employees with respect to the payment of wages. Since there were many cases of abuse such as the wages were denied or delayed, arbitrary deductions were made, heavy fines were imposed and more often than not payment was done in kind rather than in cash.

Thus, the Act was sanctioned to regulate the payment of wages by certain regulations such as fixing responsibility for such payment, fixing wage-period, and time of payment of wages, etc. Also, it has provision for authorized deductions from the wages and levying of fines under certain circumstances. And in case of non-compliance of the provisions of the Act there are penalties for the employer.

Minimum Wages Act, 1948

The objective this act holds is to offer minimum wages to the workers employed in the employments mentioned in the Schedule I of the Act. Such as employment in any rice mill, flour mill or dal mill or employment in any tobacco manufactory, etc. Hence, the pertinent government is empowered under the Act to fix minimum wages and revise them consistently. It also lays down provision for overtime wages. Also, there are certain penalties under this Act too for non-compliance of the provisions by the employer.

Laws dealing with the social security of the employees

Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923

The Act aims at providing the compensation to workmen or their dependents in case of accidents arising out of or in the course of employment. Such accidents may either result in death or disablement it can be permanent/temporary of the workers. Also, it involves compensation for occupational diseases i.e. the employment contracted diseases. Since the Act situates a detailed list of the persons falling under the category of ‘dependents’ and the method to calculate the compensation amount in different scenarios. Thus, the Act is a comprehensive legislation dealing with all the surfaces of compensation and the related issues.

Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948

The Act situates provisions for benefits to employees such as: sickness benefit, funeral benefit, disablement benefit, medical benefit and maternity benefits. While, out of all these, medical benefit is extended to the family members of the employee too. And the funeral benefit is paid to the eldest surviving member of the family or in his absence, to any person who actually incurs the expenditure on the funeral. It is to be noted that all the benefits under this Act are paid in cash. Also, the provides for the establishment of Corporation, Committee, and Council etc. to implement the provisions of the Act effectively.

Laws dealing with nature and conditions of service and employment

Factories Act, 1948

The working conditions of the workers employed in factories are regulated by this Act. So, it situates provisions to ensure adequate safety measures are implemented in the factories for the health and welfare of its workers. Also, the Act outlines the general duties of the occupier for the same and the duties of the manufacturers, etc. who imports or supply any article in a factory for use. There are separate provisions dealing with working hours of adults, annual leave with wages, etc. However, it regulates the employment of women and children and prohibits the employment of children below fourteen years of age.

The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946

This is another important legislation which was sanctioned to resolve the friction between the employers and the workmen. While this Act requires the employer to formally define the conditions of employment under him. So, this Act involves a schedule which consists the list of the matters to be provided in standing orders. The employer is under an obligation to make the workmen familiar with the standing orders. Further, the Act also regulates the duration and modification of such orders.

Laws dealing with the issues of gender equality and women empowerment includes:

Equal Remuneration Act, 1976

Equal pay for equal work has constitutional recognition as contained in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy. This Act situates for the payment of equal remuneration to both men and women for performing same work or work of similar nature. While, failing which the employer is penalised. Thus, it prevents discrimination against women in the matters of payment of remuneration.

Maternity Benefits Act, 1961                                         

There were different State Acts and three central Acts dealing with the provisions of maternity benefit, before this ACT sanctioned. The Act was sanctioned to reduce the disparities in different laws and provide for maternity protection to the women employed in all establishments except those to which Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 apply. The Act interdicts the employer from employing women during certain periods and the right of such women to be paid the maternity benefit.

Laws dealing with the prohibition of social evils

Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986

The Act is in conformity with various articles of the Constitution. It distinguishes between ‘adolescent’ and ‘children’ and prohibits the engagement of children in all occupations. And also, the engagement of adolescents in hazardous occupations. Further, the Act also provides for the regulation of conditions of work of adolescents in such employment where they are allowed to work. These regulations are with respect to the holidays, working hours, health and safety. Moreover, the Act also situates penalties for not complying with the provisions of the Act.

Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

This legislation came lately into existence and was sanctioned to incorporate the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court. It provides for protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace. There are provisions in the Act which deals with the prevention and redressal of such complaints. This Act is in conformity with the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution which comprises of the rights of a woman to dignity, liberty and life.

Bonded Labour System (Abolition), Act, 1976, the Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966 are the other Acts which fall under this category.

Laws dealing with employment and training of the employees

Apprentices Act, 1961

The Industrial revolution’s tide generated the need of trained employees. Thus, the need for training apprentices. The Act is a complete legislation dealing with the qualification of being engaged as an apprentice, obligations of apprentices, their working conditions, their payment and working hours, employer’s liability, etc.

Conclusion

There are several labour laws dealing with different labour and industrial issues. The labour laws have been sanctioned with the objective of social and economic justice. They also personify the constitutional spirit comprised in various Articles.

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