Model law for shops working 24/7 being framed: Govt

From The Hindu

The government has framed a new model law that would allow cinema halls, restaurants, shops, banks and other such workplaces to be open 24/7. The law would also enable women to work during the night in such offices with mandatory cab services and other workplace facilities for them.

The government has put in public domain a draft Cabinet note on Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act 2015 for inviting comments from various Ministries and government departments. This will act as an advisory to the state governments which will have the option to either adopt this model law or make changes to it according to their local needs.

“All shops and establishments, not covered under the Factories Act, such as malls, cinema halls or an information technology firm may be open 24X7 and allowed to work 365 days in a year. We will issue an advisory to the states, which will not require approval from the Parliament, and it is up to them to take it up or make changes,” Union Labour Secretary Shankar Aggarwal told media.

He, however, said the shops and establishments will need to take permission from local bodies related to other laws. “We have protected the workers’ rights while framing this law. It will also give boost to the revenues of the services sector which can open all day long now,” Mr. Aggarwal added.

The draft law proposes to cover all premises, barring factories, or shops with work related to printing, banking, insurance, stocks and shares, brokerage or theatres, cinema and “any other public amusement” which is currently not covered under the Factories Act 1948. All such units which employee 10 or more workers are proposed to come under this Act.

At present, states have their own rules related to shops and establishments which cover physical shops or workplaces regardless of the size of the unit. The law lays down statutory obligations and rights of employers and employees.

For the first time, godowns, warehouses or workplace related to packaging activities are proposed to be covered under the law, as per the draft model Act. This will bring many e-commerce companies under the labour law rulebooks as many of these companies face problems while operating godowns in various states.

“This is a very encouraging move in terms of the ease of doing business also keeping in mind that workers’ interests are protected. In the current scenario, many establishments, especially the e-commerce industry, want to operate 365 days throughout the day. The entire process of seeking approvals at present is very complex. It will give a big relief to such industries and help the logistics sector even more,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, president of the Indian Staffing Federation.

The law will not apply for government offices and the Reserve Bank of India.

The draft model law has laid down several provisions for workers in such establishments. It said women will be permitted to work during night shift and there will be “no discrimination against women in the matter of recruitment, training, transfer or promotion.” Facilities such as cab services, night crèches and ladies toilet should be compulsorily provided by employers in case women are working during the night shift.

A worker will get 12 days mandatory casual cum sick leaves throughout the year. This apart, five paid holidays for festivals will be a must, according to another proposal. A worker can work nine hours a day with a mandatory break of 30 minutes.

However, “highly skilled workers” in the information technology sector or bio-technology are proposed to be exempted from daily working hours of nine hours and weekly working hours of 38 hours. They will be allowed to work overtime for maximum 125 hours in three months.

The employers will be asked to file annual returns electronically “as far as possible.” Also, instead of factory inspectors, there will be facilitators who will supply information and advice to employers and workers related to the law and inspect the establishment based on inspection schemes.

Most of the offences other than safety hazards are compoundable and a fair opportunity will be provided to employers for compliance of irregularities, according to the draft model law.

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