While ironing out some of the operational hassles a manufacturer has to face, the Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014, that was tabled in Parliament last week has also proposed a handful of big ticket reforms such as legally permitting women to work in night shifts, improving safety of workers and exempting employers from arrest in the event of the violation of any provisions of the Act. But it has little to offer in terms of removing some strange quirks in the 60-year-old Act. Meanwhile, trade unions and Opposition parties have opposed the Bill.
Proposed changes on Workers’ Safety and Hours of Work
* The Bill proposes to allow women to work in factories between 7 pm and 6 am with exemptions to women workers for 16 weeks before and after childbirth.
* The eligibility criteria for annual leave with wages is proposed to be reduced to 90 days from the current limit of 240 days.
* While permitting women workers to clean, lubricate or adjust a prime mover or transmission machinery in motion, the Bill proposes to restrict pregnant women and persons with disability from doing this.
* The overtime limit of workers for any quarter is proposed to be increased from the current limit of 50 hours to 100 hours.
* The draft legislation seeks to re-define hazardous substances to include any item that can cause physical or health hazards to any person, animal, plant or the environment.
* The amendment proposes to expand the definition of a “week” as a period of seven days starting midnight on any night approved for a particular area to a factory, allowing each factory to have its own work week.
* The over 200-year-old near-obsolete term “horsepower” that is used to measure the installed capacity of a factory under the Act is sought to be replaced by “power in Kilowatts”.
* Doing away with a minimum of 250 workers, the draft legislation proposes that all factories irrespective of number of workers must provide cool drinking water in hot weather.
* The provision of maintaining spittoons continues but violation of the clause is now a compoundable offence, saving the manufacturer from a jail sentence.
* Similarly, provisions for maintaining of drying lines, washing facilities and sitting facilities in factories for workers are retained and their violation is sought to be a compoundable offence.
- Compiled by Surabhi