Working hours cannot be increased beyond eight hours a day without paying for overtime as some states have tried to do by diluting the labour laws, top officials of the Centre indicated to a parliamentary panel on Monday.
The top brass of the Ministry of Labour and Employment on Monday briefed the parliamentary standing committee on labour, chaired by BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, on changes in the labour laws effected by state governments during lockdown and issues faced by migrant workers amid the pandemic.
About nine states proposed to increase the working hours from eight to twelve by diluting the labour laws, but later rolled back the decision after facing flak from various stakeholders, especially the trade unions. The parliamentary panel on labour had written to various state governments seeking explanation for diluting the labour laws.
The panel members led by Mahtab questioned the central government officials about dilution in labour laws, especially increasing the working hours from eight to twelve, a source in the panel said. Responding to the panel, the labour ministry officials said the changes attempted by state governments have to be according to the proposed four labour codes. They said since India is a signatory to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the country cannot go beyond the stipulated eight hours, sources in the panel told PTI.
The officials also informed the panel that if the working hours have to be increased, it has to be done with the consent of workers and they need to be compensated with overtime or compensatory leaves, they said. The panel also questioned about the plight of migrant workers during the lockdown, to which the officials conveyed that they are widening the ambit of the definition of 'migrant workers'.
The panel members also suggested to include self-employed people such as hawkers, rickshaw-pullers and others in the definition of migrant workers, and that they should get all those benefits which they are entitled to in their native states.
The panel also suggested to ease the conditions for availing benefits of the Employees' State Insurance (ESI) and Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) so that migrant workers can avail these benefits, sources said. ESI and EPF are self-financing and welfare scheme for workers.
The members also pitched for removal of the criteria on minimum number of employees and wages to avail these two social security schemes, to which the officials responded positively, sources added.