Minimum Working Conditions
Requirements in this regard are principally concerned with working hours, overtime, intervals of rest, provision of basic amenities such as drinking water, toilets, first aid facilities as well as work timings, leave, overtime and holidays, and also with respect to the health, safety and welfare of workers.
The term ‘wages’ is used under labour/employment laws to refer to any and all remuneration and emoluments earned by an employee (excluding certain allowances and bonuses) whereas the term ‘salary’ is used under income tax law to denote the total taxable income received by an employee. It is important to note that currently, different labour laws have dissimilar definitions of wages. However, the same is likely to be remedied under the Code of Wages, which provides for a uniform definition of wages, which would then have to be closely examined. Basic wages are defined as all payments which are earned by an employee in accordance with the terms of the employment contract, but does not include: i) the cash value of any food concession; ii) any dearness allowance (i.e. cash payments paid on account of a rise in the cost of living), house-rent allowance, overtime allowance, bonus, commission or any other similar allowance; and iii) any presents made by the employer.
Maximum Working Week
As a general principle, employees cannot be required to work in any establishment for more than 9 hours a day or 48 hours a week, without attracting overtime payments. In order to overcome the economic crisis in times of pandemic, certain States have increased the permissible limits of working hours for employees, subject to certain conditions and restrictions.
An employee working ‘overtime’ becomes entitled to wages at the rate of twice his/her ordinary rate of wages and could also be entitled to a compensatory time off.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
An employer’s health and safety obligations towards its employees are far more extensive in the manufacturing sector and in certain other sectors such as mines and building and construction. The various State-specific S&E Acts have special provisions with respect to ensuring safety of women who work during night shifts. Employers in such cases are required to ensure that adequate security and transport facilities are provided (at their own cost) to female employees. Given changing economic requirements in recent times, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian Government has been increasingly conscious of the needs of businesses as well. In the last 6 months, the Indian Government has already brought in certain significant changes in labour laws with the aim of improving the ease of doing business in India. Further, there are several other big-ticket reforms in the pipeline, which we hope will see the light of day in the near future.
Employees are required to frame grievance redressal mechanisms to address individual worker complaints.