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New Labour Codes May Allow 4-day Work Week But With Longer Hours

Employees wearing protective masks work inside a call centre run in Lucknow. (Reuters)

Employees wearing protective masks work inside a call centre run in Lucknow. (Reuters)

Companies will have to give three days’ of paid leaves and 12 hours of work per day to their employees with the consent of the workers, said Labour and Employment Secretary Apurva Chandra said on Monday.

The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment is working to roll out new labour codes, where it proposes flexibility to companies to reduce the number of working days to four days a week and provide free medical check-ups to workers through state insurance. However, the cap on working hours of 48 hours per week will remain sacrosanct.

Companies will have to give three days’ of paid leaves and 12 hours of work per day to their employees with the consent of the workers, said Labour and Employment Secretary Apurva Chandra said on Monday.

“We are not forcing employees or employers. It gives flexibility. It’s an enabling provision in sync with the changing work culture. We have tried to make some changes. We have tried to give flexibility in working days,” he said. The draft rules under the labour codes are in the final stage and most states were in the process of framing their rules and some, including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, would be ready with their drafts this week, Chandra added.

“It (working days) could come down below five. If it is four, then you have to provide three paid holidays…so if it has to be a seven day week, then it has to be divided into 4 or 5 or 6 working days. Under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 draft rules, the limit of working hours for a week was 48 hours. This limit was sacrosanct and that employers and workers would have to agree to a change in working days. It cannot be forced,” he said.

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Besides, the Labour Ministry is working on a web portal by June 2021 for registration and other facilities of workers in the unorganised sector, including gig and platform workers and migrant workers.

“Rule making process is already underway and likely to complete in the coming week. All stakeholders are also consulted in framing of rules. This ministry would soon be in a position to bring into force the four Codes, viz., Code on Wages, Industrial Relations, Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) and Social Security Codes,” Chandra said in a media briefing.

To implement the new codes, the Labour Bureau has embarked on the humongous task of conducting four surveys for Migrant workers, Domestic workers, Employment generated by Professionals and Transport Sector. It will also commission ‘All India Establishment based Employment Survey ‘.

The Ministry will provide an incentive of free coverage for a period of one year for accidental and disability cover under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bhima Yojana to the enrolled workers on the portal.

To summarise, the new labour codes will offer weekly 48-hour work limit, but employers can deploy people on four, 12-hour workdays per week; or five, around 10-hour days; or six, eight-hour days, Chandra said.

Once the new codes come into force, employers won’t need the government’s permission to shift to a four or a five-day working week if their employees approve the arrangement.

“Employers will have to ensure that if they choose a four-day work week, there has to be a three-day break, and if it is a five-day week, two days of break before starting a new work week has to be implemented,” Chandra said.