Occupational Safety, Health, And Working Conditions Code, Bill No. 122; 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha on 19th September 2020.

The Code is expected to consolidate and amend the laws regulating the occupational safety, health, and working conditions of the persons employed in an establishment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Labour & Employment Minister of India Mr. Santoshkumar Gangwal introduced 3 Labour Codes in Lok Sabha to bring immense labour welfare measures to the 50 crore workers in the country.

The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on September 19, 2020.  Passed by Lok Sabha on September 22, 2020, and passed by Rajya Sabha on September 23, 2020.

The Code regulates: 

  1. Wages,
  2. Industrial Relations,
  3. Social Security, and
  4. Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions.

Motive of the Bill

The 2020 Bill replaces nine laws related to social security.  The National Commission on Labour (2002) (NCL) emphasized the need for universal and comprehensive social security coverage to avoid the deprivation of the basic needs of workers and recommended the simplification and consolidation of existing laws towards this end.

In 2019, the Ministry of Labour and Employment introduced four Bills to consolidate 29 central laws.  The government has replaced these Bills with new ones on September 19, 2020.

The Code proposes to subsume 633 provisions of 13 major labor laws into one single Code with 143 provisions.

The laws to be subsumed are:

  1. The Factories Act, 1948
  2. The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
  3. The Mines Act, 1952
  4. The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986
  5. The Building & Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
  6. The Plantations Labour Act, 1951
  7. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
  8. The Working Journalist and Other News Paper Employees (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provision) Act, 1955
  9. The Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958
  10. The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981
  11. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961
  12. The Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976
  13. The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act 1966

Expanse Of The Code

  • The Code applies to factories having 20 or more workers and the manufacturing process is being carried on with the aid of power or 40 or more workers where the manufacturing process is being carried on without the aid of power.
  • The Code emphasizes on health, safety, and welfare of the workers employed in various sectors like industry, business, manufacturing, transport undertaking, construction work, newspaper establishments, audio-video production, plantation, mine and dock-work, and service sectors.
  • The Code applies to contract labor employed through contractors in the offices where the Central Government or State Government is the principal employer.
  • The Code sets up occupational safety boards at the national and state levels to advise the central and state governments on the standards, rules, and regulations to be framed under the Code.
  • The Code creates special provisions for factories, mines, dock workers, and construction workers. These include separate provisions on licenses, safety regulations, and duties of employers.
  • The Code consists of schedules that include a list of industries involved in hazardous processes, a list of matters where standards are to be followed concerning the health and safety of workers, and a list of notifiable diseases.

Highlights: The Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020

  • The Code aims to replace multiple registrations under various enactments with one common registration, one license, and one return which will be helpful under ease of doing business.
  • The workplace should be kept free from hazards that cause or are likely to cause injury or occupational disease to the employees
  • Employers are required to conduct free annual health check-ups for their employees.
  • Employers are required to ensure the disposal of hazardous and toxic waste including e-waste.
  • Issuance of appointment letter to every employee on their appointment in the establishment.
  • Workers / Employees are entitled to receive overtime amount at the rate of twice the wage.
  • Employers or Contractors are responsible for providing welfare facilities to inter-state migrant workers.
  • Employers are required to provide facilities such as ventilation, drinking water, adequate lighting, creche, washing facilities, bathing places, locker rooms, etc.
  • Mandatory provision to provide a safe working environment and try to cover the risk of accidents.
  • The Code bars civil courts from hearing matters under the Code. The only judicial recourse for a person aggrieved is to file a writ petition before the relevant High Court.
  • Central Government shall constitute a National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board to discharge the functions conferred on it by or under this Code and to advise the Central Government on the matters relating to standards, rules, and regulations to be framed under this Code.
  • The committees will comprise representatives of the employer and the workers. These committees will function as a liaison between employers and employees
  • The license issued by the appropriate authority for inter-state migrant workers shall be made electronically containing all the particulars like the number of contract labor, nature of work for which contract labor is to be employed, responsibilities of the contractor, and such other particulars including the information relating to the employment of inter-State migrant workers
  • The contractor shall apply for an amendment of license along with a security deposit in case there is an increase in number of the contract labor.
  • Inter-state migrant work shall be provided with the facilities which are available to workers of that establishment including benefits under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 or the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, or any other law for the time being in force and the facility of medical check-up as available to a worker.
  • It shall be the complete responsibility of the employer to pay yearly journey allowances to every inter-state migrant worker a lump-sum amount of fare for to and fro journey to his native place from the place of his employment, in the manner taking into account the minimum service for entitlement, periodicity, and class of travel
  • Employer in plantation to make provisions for necessary housing accommodation including drinking water, kitchen and toilet, health and recreational facilities, to every worker employed in the plantation (including his family), crèches facilities for plantations having more than 50 workers (including workers employed by any contractor), educational facilities for children of workers between six to twelve years of age.

Significant Changes In The Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020

  • The limit of female workers for creating creche facilities for children below 6 years of age, would increase to 50 female workers from 30 currently.
  • As per The Factories Act any establishment that has 500 or more workers than the occupier should appoint welfare officers but post implementation of this Code, the limit shall be reduced to 250 employees.
  • The establishment employing 100 workers will be responsible for providing a canteen facility, a reduction from the current limit of 250.
  • Female employees are asked to work beyond 7 pm till 6 am with their consent and conditions.
  • Workers cannot be required to work for more than 6 days/week and will be entitled to one day off for every 20 days of work & one day off every week
  • Workers employed in Transport, Sales Promotion, and Journalism have special requirements for specific work hours and leave.
  • Employers in the construction business cannot hire workers with defective vision, deafness, or a tendency for giddiness if there’s a risk of an accident.
  • Contrary to earlier provisions women workers are entitled to be employed in all establishments for all types of work including hazardous processes subject to the conditions that the government may require the employer to provide adequate safeguards before their employment in hazardous

Additional Powers During An Epidemic:

  • The 2020 Bill adds new clauses which may become applicable in the cases of an epidemic.  For example, the central government may defer or reduce the employer’s or employee’s contributions (under PF and ESI) for a period of up to three months in the case of a pandemic, endemic, or national disaster.
  • Considering COVID-19, the Central Government has reserved its power to make regulations for the general safety and health of persons in the event of a declaration of an epidemic, pandemic, or disaster. This has not been effected by any other law for the time being in force.
  • The Code has made maximum registration process to be initiated electronically and hence a minimum of physical contact exists.
  • Key definitions of terms like Wages, Banking Company, and Core Activity of an Establishment have been inserted.

Changes In Definitions:

The 2020 Bill changes the definitions of certain terms in the Code. These include:

(i) Expanding the definition of ‘employees’ to include workers employed through contractors.

(ii) Expanding the definition of “inter-state migrant workers” to include self-employed workers from another state

(iii) Expanding the definition of “platform worker” to additional categories of services or activities as may be notified by the government

(iv) Expanding the definition of audio-visual productions to include films, web-based serials, talk shows, reality shows and sports shows,

(v) Exempting construction works from the ambit of “building or other construction work” if the total cost of construction work exceeds Rs. 50 lakhs (and if they employ more than a certain notified number of workers).

(vi) Factory: The 2019 Bill defined a factory as any premises where the manufacturing process is carried out and it employs more than: (a)20 workers, if the process is carried out using power, or (b) 40 workers if it is carried out without using power.

Certain Terms Those Are Not Defined In The Code

The 2020 Bill defines a ‘worker’ as any person who works for hire or reward.  It excludes persons employed in a managerial or administrative capacity, or in a supervisory capacity with wages exceeding Rs 18,000.

However, it does not define the terms ‘manager’ or ‘supervisor’ in this context.   These terms are also used in the remaining three labor Codes, i.e., Occupational Safety and Health, Wages, and Social Security.  The Standing Committee which examined the OSH Code recommended that the terms ‘supervisor’ and ‘manager’ be clearly defined in the Bill as it determines the categories of persons who would be excluded from the definition of ‘workers’.

  • The Bill does not define the term ‘contractor’. The remaining three Bills define the term to include persons who deliver work using contract labor or supply manpower through contract labor.
  • The Bill defines the term “industrial establishment” to mean an establishment in which industry is carried on.  However, it does not define the term ‘establishment’.  The remaining three Bills define the term to refer to any place where industry, trade, business, manufacture, or occupation is carried on.

Currently, The Occupational Safety, Health, And Working Conditions Code, 2020  is pending for President’s assent. This code is going to bring a major reform in terms of the health safety and welfare of workers employed. On the other hand, it is also going to lessen the burden on employers by replacing multiple registrations and licenses with one common license. Overall the Code empowers employees and employers to have the benefit.

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1 Comment

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