OSH Code bill of labour reforms likely to include 50 changes: Officials

Out of the four codes, the code on wages has been cleared by Parliament. The remaining three are awaiting clearance

labour reforms, OSH Code, Parliament, workers, employees, working hours
It is also expected that the Centre will categorically mention “highly skilled” while speaking about building workers as their wages differ from skilled and unskilled workers in this sector. Photo: iStock

The standing committee on labour has suggested 56 new amendments to be included in the yet-to-be cleared Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) Code bill, government officials said on Monday (March 9).

Following a detailed study of the recommendations, the Biju Janata Dal leader Bhartruhari Mahtab-led panel submitted its report on the bill on February 11, a further study into which was conducted by the officials handling the bill.

They said, “The government has indicated its readiness to include at least 50 of the amendments.”

Contract labours

According to a report in Hindustan Times, the amendments in the OSH Code will likely widen the definition of contract labours in Clause 2(1)(m) of the bill, specifically mentioning cinema and entertainment industry workers apart from others.

It is also expected that the Centre will categorically mention “highly skilled” while speaking about building workers as their wages differ from skilled and unskilled workers in this sector and make clear provisions spelling out the “responsibility/ accountability of the contractors towards the contract labourers deployed by them”.

Officials said that the said changes also include penalties for non-payment of wages and abdication of other duties and modifying some clauses of the bill to cater to the specific needs of women workers employed in the ship-breaking, software, and textile industries.

Eight-hour workday

As per the report submitted by the panel, there arise a need to review the eight-hour work day mentioned in the first ILO convention in 1913. The report pointed out that in several professions such as IT and software companies, employees work for more than eight hours. However, it is not yet clear if the Centre will make any changes to the durations of the work-day.

Difference between workers and employees

Meanwhile, in a first for the country, the government may eradicate the difference between workers and employees as far as welfare facilities are concerned, the officials confirmed.

In a key policy shift, the ministry may change the definition so as to provide equal facilities of canteen, rest rooms or crèche to the workers similar to that of the employees.

It may also allow common crèche facilities, as against the current norm of individual crèche in factories, to allow a cluster of small scale industries to pool their resources for setting up of a common crèche, they said.

Safety Officer

It is also likely that the government may make an explicit provision to appoint a safety officer in all organisations, especially to deal with hazardous processes including Building and Construction activities, even with less than the stipulated 500 workers, the officials said.

The OSH Code, one of the four labour codes, aims to simplify the complex labour laws in order to allow flexibility and attract investors, while also improving the working conditions to take care of the health of workers. It stipulates various welfare measures including hours of work, overtime hours, leave, holiday, etc.

Out of the four codes, the code on wages has been cleared by Parliament. The remaining three are awaiting clearance.

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