Labour Reforms and the 4 Day Work Week.
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The Ministry of Labour and Employment has moved ahead with the decision to take a step to finalize a set of rules under the four labour codes, thus implying the implementation of such reforms a reality in the near future. The four codes broadly cover wages, industrial relations, social security and occupational safety, health & working conditions (OSH) have already been given the president’s approval. However for them to be implemented, the rules have to be notified. The current scenario stands at the ministry having completed the process of consultation to draft rules on the four codes. The Parliament had passed four broad codes on wages, industrial relations, social security and OSH which would ultimately rationalise 44 central labour laws. The Code on Wages was passed by Parliament in 2019 while the three other codes got clearance from both the Houses in 2020.Apart from this, the ministry is also progressing to roll out a web portal by June 2021 for registration and other facilities of workers in the unorganised sector, including gig and platform workers and migrant workers as enshrined in her budget speech this year by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Earlier on February 8, 2021, Chandra had said in a press conference, “Rule-making process is already underway and likely to be completed in the coming week. All stakeholders are also consulted in the framing of rules. This ministry would soon be in a position to bring into force the four Codes namely, Code on Wages, Industrial Relations, Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) and Social Security Codes.”

However labour being a concurrent subject, certain rules would also be framed by the states under the four codes and the states are also in the process of notifying draft rules and holding tripartite consultations to firm up those for implementation. The enrolled workers on the portal will be provided with an incentive of free coverage for a period of one year for accidental and disability cover under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bhima Yojana (PMSBY). The Bureau is also planning to commission ‘All India Establishment based Employment Survey’ (AIEES).

However, results of all these surveys are likely to come within eight to nine months from the start of actual field surveys. The Indian government will soon encourage businesses to move forward with a four-day week of work. The Ministry of Labour and Jobs of the Union is working on new labor codes that will make way for a three-day weekend, but will retain working hours at 48 hours a week, meaning that workers will be exposed to long working hours.

“Companies will have to give three days’ of paid leaves and 12 hours of work per day to their employees with the consent of the workers. We are not forcing employees or employers. It gives flexibility. It’s an enabling provision in sync with the changing work culture. We have tried to make some changes. We have tried to give flexibility in working days” said Labour and Employment Ministry Secretary Apurva Chandra. A 2020 study found Indian workers believe that a four-day work week idea is at least five years away. Moreover the workers are currently made to work more than five days a week either way.

Commenting on this, Mr. Pratik Vaidya Founder and MD of Karma Management Consultants Pvt Ltd. said that in spite of there being a buzz around the implementation of labour codes, various issues like  clarity on wages definition, bonus ceiling and ESI ceiling is yet pending. In his opinion, the new labour codes will soon have many organisations/persons challenging the provisions and will start the rigmarole of case laws again. He ponders if these are really new labour reforms or just book binding exercises.

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