Tamil Nadu recognises employees’ ‘right to sit’ during work hours

State Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, will be amended to provide seating facilities to all employees of shops and establishments

MK Stalin, EWS quota
The Tamil Nadu government, led by Chief Minister M K Stalin, has recognised the fact that people working in shops and establishments suffer health ailments because they have to stand for 10-12 hours while at work.

Following in the footsteps of Kerala government, the Tamil Nadu government on Monday (September 6) tabled a Bill in the House, called ‘Right to Sit’, making it compulsory for all shops to provide seating arrangements for employees.

The Tamil Nadu labour advisory board has okayed the amendment to the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, which recognises that people working in shops and establishments suffer health ailments because they have to stand for 10-12 hours while at work.

“Considering the plight of the employees who are on their toes throughout their duty time, it is felt necessary to provide seating facilities to all the employees of the shops and establishments,” read the Bill.

The Bill further suggested that every establishment should provide “suitable seating arrangements for all employees so that they may take advantage of any opportunity to sit which may occur in the course of their work”.  This is necessary to avoid ‘on the toes’ situation throughout the duty time, adds Section 21B of the Act.

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Kerala had brought in a similar Bill in 2018 following protests to ensure the rights of women employees during work hours. The Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 added a new section in the Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1960 to facilitate adequate breaks during work.

Tamil Nadu Minister for Labour Welfare and Skill Development C V Ganesan said the amendment is also likely to benefit thousands of women in the retail sector.

Tamil Nadu proposed the amendment because workers in the retail sector, industries like jewellery and textiles, have been complaining against employers making them stand for long hours and not even giving toilet breaks.

A labour department officer said, “These highly exploitative bonded labour practices in the retail sector may have gone through some changes over the years but the plight of labourers continue to be the same. This Bill would be ensuring their rights to sit while at work.”

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