The Coffee Break Guide to Compliance – Vol. 3
Last week, we had covered the Responsibilities of an Employer in Engaging Women Employees in Commercial Establishments in India. In this post, Anandan Subramaniam outlines the Employer Responsibilities pertaining to Factories.
This post is part of the Coffee Break Guide to Compliance by Anandan Subramaniam. Please subscribe to the blog updates if you’d like to be notified of these posts. As always, your questions are welcome: please comment below with your doubts and queries.
The Coffee Break Guide to Compliance – Vol. 3 (Responsibilities of an Employer in Engaging Women Employees in Factories in India)
The provisions of Section 66(1) (b) of Factories Act, 1948, state that “no woman shall be required or allowed to work in any factory except between the hours 6 am and 7 pm.” This provision disallows women employees from working after 8 pm in manufacturing establishments.
The said section, however, was struck down as unconstitutional in various judgments:
(1) The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay passed an interim order allowing deployment of women in Santa Cruz Electronic Export Processing Zones (SEEPZ) for night shift; (2) Separately, The Hon’ble High Court of Andhra Pradesh and (3) The Hon’ble Madras High Court had allowed women in the workforce to be engaged in manufacturing facilities which are covered under Factories Act, 1948, by striking down Section 66 (1) (b) of Factories Act, 1948.
Notwithstanding, the Hon’ble Karnataka High court has relied on the Judgment of Hon’ble Madras High Court, and The Division of Bench of Hon’ble Gujarat High Court held the views of Hon’ble High Courts of Madras and Andhra Pradesh. It further stated that this should be condition precedent upon the employer to make adequate measures for the safety and security of the female employees who would work during the night shift.
Further to the Hon’ble Madras High Court’s judgment in Vasantha R. vs Union of India (UoI) case, the Tamil Nadu Factories Rules was amended, and guidelines for employment of women in night shifts were notified. This is exhaustive and includes the guidelines/conditions notified by other States. Some of the guidelines are as follows:
- It shall be the duty of the Occupier of the factory to take all steps to prevent any acts of sexual harassment in the factory.
- The Occupier of the factory shall maintain a complaint mechanism in the factory itself.
- The women workers shall be allowed to raise the issue of sexual harassment in the workers’ meetings.
- The Occupier of the factory shall provide proper lighting in and around the factory.
- The Occupier of the factory shall ensure that women workers employed in the night shift shall not be less than ten, and not less than two third of the total strength of workers. One third of the supervisors / shift in-charge shall be women.
- The Occupier of the factory shall provide sufficient women security at the entry and exit points and sufficient work sheds for the women workers employed in night shift.
- The Occupier of the factory shall provide separate dining facility and separate safe transportation from the factory premises to the nearest point of their residence to the women workers in night shift.
- The Occupier of the factory shall arrange necessary medical facilities and also make these facilities available at any time of urgency in case of injury or incidental acts of harassment, by providing necessary telephone connections.
- The Occupier of the factory shall ensure that wherever the factory provides boarding and lodging for women workers, the same shall be kept exclusively for women and it should be under the control of women wardens or supervisors.
- The Occupier of the factory shall ensure that there shall not be less than twelve consecutive hours of rest between the last shift and the night shift whenever a woman worker is changed from day shift to night shift and from night shift to day shift.
- The Occupier of the factory shall appoint not less than two women workers per night shift who shall go round and work as Special Welfare Assistants.
- Whenever there is any untoward incident, the occupier of the factory shall send a report to the Inspector of Factories and the concerned Police Station as well.
- The Occupier of the factory shall exhibit these guidelines in a prominent place so that the women workers can be aware of their rights.
- Adequate toilet with water facility shall be provided to the women workers, conveniently situated and easily accessible, containing all basic amenities and safety measures to the workers.
- Crèche facility, wherever needed, shall be provided to the women workers for the care of their children with caretaker with all essential amenities.
Please refer to the respective State’s regulations/conditions carefully while requiring women employees to work in night shifts, in order to ensure the right compliance and the safety and security of such employees.
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