The Code on Occupational Safety-Health and Working Conditions 2019
The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions 2019
After intense discussions with trade unions, employers and other stakeholders, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar presented the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill of 2019 in the Lok Sabha Assembly. The Code proposes various amendments to the workplace laws that regulate the occupational safety, health and working conditions of people employed in various sectors and industries. The Bill seeking to merge 13 different labour laws into a single code applicable to every industry and establishment with 10 or more employees was given the green signal by the Union Cabinet paving the way for its introduction in the Parliament. This article talks about the various aspects of The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions 2019.
The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions 2019 focuses on ensuring the safety, health, as well as the welfare of every worker. This is essential for the economic growth of the entity, and more importantly, the country. After all, only a healthy workforce will be able to deliver the desired level of productivity in the workplace. The introduction of this Code is expected to bring down the number of accidents and mishaps at every workplace. The Code covers workers from every establishment that employs 10 or more people. The establishments under the scope of the Code include those involved in any kinds of trade, businesses, manufacturing activities, as well as the IT and services sectors.
People who are represented as Working Journalists and Cine Workers have been redefined to include workers involved in electronic media and any form of audio-visual production activity. Migrant workers who are hired by employers of other states than their own without an agent or a contractor have been included under the term Inter-State Migrant Worker after multiple redefinitions. This has been initiated to ensure more comprehensive and extended coverage of the Code in order to enhance the working conditions, safety and health of every worker.
The Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions has some unique initiatives that are applicable to both the workers, as well as employers. It promotes health, safety, and welfare along with better working conditions for the workforce by enhancing the concerned legislation instead of the sectoral approach in limited sectors. Moreover, it rationalises the compliance mechanism significantly with just one license, one registration and one return for every establishment under the scope of the Code, thereby, saving a considerable amount of resources and efforts of the employers. It balances the essentials of a worker and their employer and is beneficial to both the parties.
Apart from extending the scope of occupational safety, health and working conditions of every working sector, other features of the Code are as follows:
Legislation and Flexibility
The Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions offers the basic broad legislative framework with provisions that enable the framing of various rules, regulations and appropriate bye-laws according to the requirements of a particular sector. Subsequently, this has led to the exclusion of multiple sections in the Code, bringing down the number from 622 to merely 134. This helps to form a simple, yet dynamic, legislation with the flexibility of changing necessary provisions with respect to the constant emerging technologies.
Single Registration for Establishments
The Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions implements a single registration for establishments. The Code would replace multiple registrations and six labour acts that require separate registrations for an establishment with just one individual registration. This would eventually lead to creating a centralised database and promoting the ease of doing business across the country.
Free Annual Health Checkups
As per the Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, every employer is required to offer free health checkups for their employees on an annual basis. However, employees who can take part are limited to a particular age group for prescribed tests and establishments. This would promote the idea of inclusion by offering coverage to employees above a certain age for the annual health checkup.
Issuance of Appointment Letter
For the first time, a statutory provision to issue an appointment letter to every employee of an establishment has been included in the Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions. It states that the employer must offer an appointment letter with minimum information prescribed by the appropriate concerned authorities. The provision of the issuance of the appointment letter will bring about a formalisation of employment and prevent the exploitation of an employee.
All the multiple committees formed under the six labour Acts have been replaced by the National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board. This national Board will be tripartite in nature and will comprise of representatives from Trade Unions, Employer Associations and various State Governments. This would lead to a decrease in multiple local/ government bodies/ committees under various Acts, and thereby, simplifying and coordinating effective policy-making.
The Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions has enabled provisions for the constitution of a bipartite Safety Committee in every establishment by the appropriate Government. This is aimed to promote the safety and health of an establishment’s working conditions. The very nature of the safety committee to be participatory will enhance the implementation of decisions proposed by the Government.
When an employer violates the Code, they will be liable to a certain amount as penalty, imprisonment or both if the actions of the employer lead to severe injury or death of an employee. A part of this penalty will be offered to the victim, their family members or their legal heirs by the Court. This would help the rehabilitation of the injured employee or will provide financial support to the family of the victim.
In the previous Acts, some provisions offered facilities such as a crèche, canteen, basic first aid, welfare authorities and more. However, the Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions envisages a uniform threshold where the welfare provisions are similar for every establishment as long as it’s practically feasible.
Late Working Hours for Women
As per the Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, women who are required to work before 6 AM and past 7 PM must be offered facilities that ensure safety, holidays, convenient working hours and other conditions as specified by the Government concerning prescribed establishments. However, work that does not fall in the scope of this time frame must be allocated to a woman after her consent for the same. This is a significant step for the promotion of gender equality and runs parallel to the demands of multiple forums that comprise of international organisations leading protective discrimination. Additionally, the practice of acquiring one’s consent for night shifts would eliminate the chances of misuse of the same provision.
Through the Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, the provision for a single license and one return instead of multiple licenses and returns through 12 labour Acts and laws have been cut down to save time, resources and the efforts of an establishment to be compliant.
The Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions has been drafted after proper amalgamation, simplification and rationalisation of the essential provisions of the 13 Central Labour Acts which are as follows:
- The Mines Act, 1952
- The Factories Act, 1948;
- The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
- The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986
- The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981.
- The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966
- Sales Promotion Employees (Condition of Service) Act, 1976
- The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961
- The Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958
- The Working Journalist and other News Paper Employees (Conditions of Service and Misc. Provision) Act, 1955
- The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
- The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
- The Plantations Labour Act, 1951
Post the enactment of the Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, all these afore-mentioned Acts subsumed in the Code will be repealed.