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Legislative Support For Women Provided Under Various Indian Labour Legislations
AMIT KUMAR {Student}
M. A. [IRPM] Final Year
PG Department of Industrial Relations & Personnel Management
Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University
Bhagalpur-812007 (BIHAR)
The history of labour legislation in India is naturally interwoven with the history of British
colonialism. Considerations of British political economy were naturally paramount in shaping some
of these early laws. In the beginning it was difficult to get enough regular Indian workers to run
British establishments and hence laws for indenturing workers became necessary. This was
obviously labour legislation in order to protect the interests of British employers. Then came the
Factories Act. It is well known that Indian textile goods offered stiff competition to British textiles
in the export market and hence in order to make India labour costlier, the Factories Act was first
introduced in 1883 because of the pressure brought on the British parliament by the textile
magnates of Manchester and Lancashire. Thus we received the first stipulation of 8 hours of work,
the abolition of child labour, and the restriction of women in night employment, and the
introduction of overtime wages for work beyond 8 hours. While the impact of this measure was
clearly welfarist the real motivation was undoubtedly protectionist.
Labour Legislation in India grew with the growth of industry. In the 18th century, India was not only
a great agricultural country but a great manufacturing country too.
In India, the plantation industry in Assam was the first to attract to attract legislative control. The
method of recruitment of workers in this industry was full of hardships. Workers were employed
through professional recruiters. Workers were not allowed by the planters to leave the tea gardens.A
number of Acts were passed from 1863 onwards to regulate the recruitments. These legislations
protected more the the interests of the employers than safeguarding the interest of the workers.
In India, a number of labour legislations have been enacted to promote the condition of the labour
keeping in view the development of industry and national economy. But for industrial regeneration
it is necessary that the partners of the industry must care their respective defects. Since
independence both legislation and public opinion have done a lot to better the conditions of the
workers but unfortunately the employers have not responded very appreciably. It is high time that
the employers must realise that “ Workers are the dominant partners in the industrial undertakings
and without their co-operation and good work, discipline, integrity and character, the industry will
not be able to produce effective results or profits. However efficient the machine touch in any
industry may be, if the human element refuses to co-operate, the industry will fail to run. Threfore
the profit of the industry must be shared between employers, workers and the community; the
workers having a dominant share, being the producers of wealth. The Government and the
employers must fully understand the labour psychology and a change in their outlook and attitude is
desires to secure the industrial peace. Nothing should be done under threat or coercion but on a
clear understanding that whatever is good and is due to the labour must be given. Industry owners
should treat the workers as co-partners. Similarly, “workers in the country must understand fully
that if they desire to secure their due place in the industrial economy of the country, they must think
more in terms of responsibilities and duties and not interpret independence for impertinence and
liberty for licence. Sabotage and violence of all kinds and bitterness in thought, word and deed must
be eschewed. Then alone a Socialist Democracy is possible in this country and industrial relations
of a higher order can be maintained for the benefit of the country and the community.”
Women constitute a significant part of the workforce in India but they lag behind men in terms of
work participation and quality of employment. According to Government sources, out of 407
million total workforce, 90 million are women workers, largely employed (about 87 %) in the
agricultural sector as labourers and cultivators. In urban areas, the employment of women in the
organised sector in March 2000 constituted 17.6 % of the total organised sector.The situation
regarding enforcement of the provisions of this law is regularly monitored by the Central Ministry
of Labour and the Central Advisory Committee. In respect of an occupational hazard concerning
the safety of women at workplaces, in 1997 the Supreme Court of India announced that sexual
harassment of working women amounts to violation of rights of gender equality. As a logical
consequence it also amounts to violation of the right to practice any profession, occupation, and
trade. The judgement also laid down the definition of sexual harassment, the preventive steps, the
complaint mechanism, and the need for creating awareness of the rights of women workers.
India has witnessed many social changes post-independence. Today, women have come out of
homes and established an identity of their own in different areas of work. Though most Indian adult
women make an economic contribution in one form or another (including housework, working in
family land etc.), much of their work is not documented. This is because majority of women
workforce is employed in the unorganized sector and working for family is considered as
responsibility which should not be counted. The Economic survey data for 2007-08 reveals that the
overall percentage share of female participation in work was comparatively low as compared to that
of male.
Owing to cultural restrictions and family responsibility, women participation in the formal economy
is limited. Some other concerns that affect working women relate to gender discrimination, quantum
of payment, safety at work place, working hours and conditions of employment that are sensitive to
cultural and religious bondages as well as family responsibilities. Indian legislature has been active
on this front. Its main focus is on reducing inequality of any sort, and thereby promoting a fair, non-
discriminatory and safe work environment.
Indian political and administrative structure is multi-layered. At the apex is the central government,
under which there are states and local self-bodies. Responsibilities for legislation are also divided
accordingly, so that autonomy of states is protected. In labour legislation, both center and states
have powers to enact suitable legislations.
The government has given greater focus to issues relating to women through creation of an
independent Ministry of Women and Child Development, initiation of legislation that has taken
the country closer to complete legal equality for women, gender budgeting and initiation of
programs for greater inclusion of women in all walks of life.
There are over 45 labour legislations from the Central Government and the number of legislations
enacted by the State Governments is close to four times that of the Central Act. The government has
so far passed/amended 5 women specific legislations. However, effectiveness of the laws can be
seen/felt if women’s are politically and socially empowered.
[1] The Factories Act, 1948
It is a labour welfare legislation where in measures have been laid down to be
adopted for the health, safety, welfare, working hours, leave and employment of
young persons and women. Exclusive provisions for women have also been
incorporated in the act keeping in view their soft and tender personalities.
1. Prohibition of employment of women during night hours.
2. Prohibition of work in hazardous occupations.
3. Prohibition of employment of women in pressing cotton where a cotton opener is
at work.
4. Fixation of daily hours of work at nine.
5. Fixation of maximum permissible load.
6. Provision for crèche.
7. Provision for washing and bathing facilities.
8. Provision for separate latrines and urinals.
9. Provision for rest rooms and canteens.
10. Provision for maternity benefits.
[2] The Mines Act, 1952
This Act has been enacted to amend and consolidate the law relating to the regulation
of labour and safety in mines. It regulates the working conditions in mines by
providing for measures required to be taken for the safety and security of workers
employed therein and certain amenities for them.
[1] No woman shall, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, be
employed -
(a) in any part of a mine which is below ground
(b) in any mine above ground except between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
[2] Every woman employed in a mine above ground shall be allowed an interval of
not less than 11 hours between the termination of employment on any one day and
the commencement of the next period of employment.
[3] Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the Central Government
may, by notification in the Official Gazette, vary the hours of employment above
ground of women in respect of any mine or class or description of mine, so however
that no employment of any women between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. is
permitted thereby.
[3] Plantations Labour Act, 1951
The Act aims at providing for the welfare of plantation labour, and to regulate the
conditions of work. It applies to any land used or intended to be used for growing tea,
coffee, rubber, cinchona or cardamom or any other plant which measures 5 hectares
or more and in which 15 or more workers are employed on any day of the preceding
12 months.
1. Prohibition on the employment of any women in any plantation between 7 p.m.
to 6 a.m. exempting those who are employed in any plantation as midwives
and nurses.
2. Sickness and Maternity Benefits in the form of allowance in case of
confinement or expected confinement and 2 Additional Breaks daily for a
woman resuming her work after delivery for nursing her child till the child is
15 months old.
3. Creche Facility in plantations where 15 or more women workers were
employed or the number of children (below the age of 6 years) of women
workers is 20 or more.
[4] The Bihar Shops and Establishments Act, 1953
This Act has been enacted to regulate the service conditions and the
conditions relating to the employment of the employees working in the
shops and establishments situated in Bihar.
1. Prohibition on working of women before 6 a.m. or after 10 p.m. in the shops and
2. Maternity leave of maximum 12 weeks will be exempted during the determination
of annual leave with wages.
3. Privilege given under Employees Compensation Act, 1923 are also applicable.
4. Privilege given under Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 are also applicable.
[1] The Employee State Insurance Act, 1948
It is one of the most important social legislation in India. It has been enacted to
provide for various benefits in different contingencies. Under this Act, insured
women workers get sickness benefit, disablement benefit, medical benefit, funeral
expenses along with insured men worker. However in addition to these benefits,
insured women workers also get maternity benefit in case of certain contingencies
arising out of confinement, miscarriage, sickness arising out of pregnancy,
confinement, premature birth of child or miscarriage and death. The duration of
maternity benefit available to insured women in case of confinement is 12 weeks of
which not more than 6 weeks shall precede the expected date of confinement. The
maternity benefit is paid subject to the condition that the insured women do not work
for remuneration on the days in respect of which the benefit is paid. In the event of
the death of the insured women, the maternity benefit is payable to her nominee or
legal representative for the whole period if the child survives, and if the child also
dies until the death of the insured women.
[2] The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
Keeping in view the need for providing maternity benefits to women workers,
especially adequate provisions for leave during maternity period and the convention
of the ILO, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was passed. This Act has been passed to
regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain periods
before and after child birth and to provide for maternity benefit and certain other
benefits. It is not doubt a significant piece of labour legislation exclusively devoted to
working women in factories, mines, plantations and establishments where in persons
are employed for the exhibition of equestrian, acrobatic and other performances.
In 1948, the provisions for maternity benefit was made under the Employees State
Insurance Act and in 1951 under the Plantation Labour Act. However the conditions
for payment, the rate and period of benefit was not uniform under these Acts and in
order to remove these disparities and to have uniform rules, the maternity Benefit
Act, 1961 was passed. The maternity benefit is applicable to casual workers daily
wage workers also.
Definition of Woman - ‘Woman’ means a woman employed, whether directly or
through any agency, for wages in any establishment.
1. Maternity benefit of 12 weeks as the maximum period
2. Various types of Cash Benefits
3. Various types of Non Cash Benefits/Privilege
4. Leave with wages in case of Miscarriage and Tubectomy Operations
5. Leave with wages in case of Illness Arising Out of Pregnancy
6. Prohibition on Employment during Certain Periods
7. Prohibition on Dismissal or Discharge or Variation in conditions of Service from
8. Benefits in Case of Death of a Pregnant Employee
[3] Domestic Workers (Registration, Social Security and Welfare) Act, 2008
The Act was introduced to regulate payment and working conditions and check
exploitation and trafficking of women and other young household workers. Domestic
workers are in the unorganized sector and unorganized, hence there are practical
difficulties to cover them. Though applicable to both men and women, it assumes
significance for women due to their presence in large numbers in the occupation.
[1] Hours of Work i.e. daily rest period of at least 10 consecutive hours between
ending and recommencing work and Annual Leave with Wages for at least 15 days
for any (male or female) registered domestic worker.
[2] Minimum Wages should be paid as per the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
[3] Safety & Penalty Provisions in cases where any person knowingly sends, directs
or takes any girl or woman domestic worker to any place for immoral purposes or to
a place where she is likely to be morally corrupted or in any manner sexually
exploited. Such a person shall be subjected to imprisonment for a minimum period of
6 months which may extend upto 7 years and fine up to Rs. 50000 or both.
For the unorganized and self-employed women workers, certain schemes like The
Unorganized Sector Workers Social Security Act, 2008, etc., have been introduced at
the Central, State and Local levels. The Act provides for formulation of Social
Security schemes for social security and welfare of workers in unorganized sector.
Maternity and Other Benefits
It makes provision for the registration of all unorganized workers. Also it pertains to
welfare schemes for different sections of the unorganized sector workers on matters
relating to life and disability cover, health, insurance and maternity benefits and old
age pension.
[1] The Payment of Wages Act, 1936
The Payment of Wages Act, 1936 regulates payment of wages to employees (direct
and indirect). The act is intended to be a remedy against unauthorized deductions
made by employer and/or unjustified delay in payment of wages.
[1] Regular Pay - Payment should be made before the 7th day of a month where the
number of workers is less than 1000 and 10th day otherwise. The wage-period shall
not exceed 1 month.
[2] Mode of Payment- payment has to be made in currency notes or coins. Cheque
payment or crediting to bank account is allowed with consent in writing by the
[3] Deduction from Wages - Employer is allowed to effect only authorized
deductions, as specified in the Act. This include fines, absence from duty , Damages
or loss , deduction for services (amenities ) given to employer recovery of advances
and loans and payment to cooperative society and insurance.
[4] Claims for excessive deduction and Non Payment - Employers individually or
through trade union can approach the authority (Labour Office) for relief.
[2] The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 sets the framework of declaring the minimum wages
payable for occupations, both in formal and informal sector.This Act safeguards the
interests of workers by providing fixation of minimum wages mainly focusing on
unorganized sector and in specified occupations (called scheduled employments). The
act binds the employers to pay their workers the minimum wages fixed under the Act
from time to time. Owing to their jurisdiction the Central and the State Governments
fix, revise, review and enforce the payment of minimum wages without any
discrimination of gender.
[1] Hours of work and overtime - The Act also regulates the working hours and
enforces overtime payment for working longer hours or on holidays. If the worker
has worked lesser hours not due to own fault like coming late then also minimum
wages has to be paid, because the employer has failed to assign adequate work.
[2] Current Minimum Wage - With effect from October 2011 the National Floor
Level Minimum Wage has been increased to Rs. 144 from Rs 125. Several states
have fixed higher Minimum wages than those prescribed by Central Government for
highly skilled, skilled, unskilled and semi skilled workers engaged in Scheduled
[3] The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
Bonus is really a reward for good work or share of profit of the unit where the
employee is working. Often there were disputes between employer and employees
about bonus to be paid. It was thought that a legislation will solve the problem and
hence Bonus Act was passed. Unfortunately, in the process, bonus has become almost
as deferred wages due to provision of payment of minimum 8.33% and maximum
20% bonus. Bonus Act has not in any way reduced the disputes
[4] The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
Equal pay for equal work for women and men is a vital subject of great concern to
society in general and employees in particular. There was a common belief that
women are physically weak and should be paid less than their male counterparts for
the same piece of work. Women all over the world, had till recently been very much
in articulate and were prepared to accept lower wages even when they were employed
on the same jobs as men. Even in the economically and socially advanced countries
where remarkable progress has been made, discrimination still exists. In India, in the
initial stages when legislation for the protection of workers was hardly thought of ,
factory owners taking advantage of the backwardness and social handicaps of the
poorer classes, recruited women on a large scale at lower wages and made them work
under inhuman condition. To give effect to the constitutional provision under the
Article 39, the parliament legislated the Equal Remuneration Act, 1975.
1. Payment of Remuneration at Equal Rates to Men and Women Workers and Other
2. Duty of employer to pay equal remuneration to men and women workers for same
work or work of a similar nature
3. No discrimination to be made while recruiting men and women workers
Sexual Harassment of Women at Their Work Place (Prevention) Bill, 2006
At present, there is no specific legislation in India to deal with sexual harassment of
women at workplace. The Sexual Harassment of Women at their Work Place
(Prevention) Bill, 2006 is pending approval form both the houses of Parliament.
The bill once passed aims at providing legal protection to women at workplace
against any kind of sexual harassment ranging from staring to rape. Till then, the
guidelines that the Supreme Court has laid down in the case of Vishaka vs. State of
Rajasthan are to be followed. These guidelines encompass a comprehensive
definition of sexual harassment, directions for establishment of a complaint
mechanism and the duty under which employers are obligated to obviate any such
Women Bartenders
The Supreme Court of India has struck down the Excise law of 1941 prohibiting
women bartending in Delhi. The Court has also reduced the age of bartenders from
25 to 21 years.
The States where liquor is sold and served lawfully are now free to amend their
Excise Laws to allow women to work as bar tenders in pubs and restaurants.
[1] The right of a woman to employment should in no way be considered subordinate
or secondary to that of a man. The necessary training facilities should be
created/augmented. Vocational guidance programmes will serve a useful purpose in
giving required information to women. It will be desirable to give preference to
women for training in those trades and occupations for which they have special
[2] Implementation of the principle of equal pay for equal work should be more
satisfactory than at present.
[3] (a) Women will have to be absorbed more and more in skilled categories of work
to make their employment more economic to the employer.
(b) With proper skill generation and rational distribution of women labour force as a
part of social and economic planning, it should be possible for an employer to follow
a non-discriminatory policy in employing women.
[1] There should be reduced working hours for adolescents, prohibition of
underground work in mines for women workers, prohibition of work by women
workers between certain hours and so on.
[2] On the question of night work for women there need not be any restriction on this
if the number of women workers in a shift in an establishment is not less than five,
and if the management is able to provide satisfactory arrangements for their transport,
safety and rest after or before shift hours.
There are various reasons why the employment of women has not been up to the
mark. In a developing country like India the income, by and large is low but social
conventions weight against employment of women. Due to labour surplus the
unemployment and underemployment many men are available hence the problem of
participation of women, in economic activity become serious. The economic reason
involving additional cost is an impediment to women employment. There is statutory
obligation on the employer to pay maternity benefit and it is considered as burden by
the employer and affect the employment of women. Some employers recruit only
unmarried women on condition to resign their post on getting married. This has been
discriminatory, unfair and unjust. Prohibition of night work of women under many
legislations too has affected the employment of women.
Although the working women have been provided various benefits, concession,
protection and safeguards under different labour legislations in order to provide
security against various risks peculiar to their nature which are likely to occur in their
lives yet their work participation is not up to mark. According to the Human
Development Report , 1995, women’s participation in the labour force had risen only
by 4 % points in twenty years, from 36 % in 1970 to 40 % in 1990. Women normally
receive a much lower average wage than men, all religious record a higher rate of
unemployment among women than men, women work longer hours than men in
every country, the deeply sharing of the adversities between women and men are still
Indisputably, India is committed to the cause of empowerment of women. However,
the journey towards progress is long and arduous. India has witnessed great change in
the last two decades. Age old prejudices and gender based biases are giving way to
gender equality and harmonious development. Policies to raise women’s age at
marriage, enhance their education and open greater employment opportunities will
also help to empower them, at least in some respects. Our goal is to cause policy,
institutional and individual change that will improve the lives of women and girls
According to 2011 census
According to the 15th Census data released on 31st March 2011, India’s
population rose to 1.21 billion people. Significantly the growth is
slower for the first time in nine decades.
India now accounts for world’s 17.5 % population. It comprises 623.7
million males and 586.5 million females.
The male population has grown by 17.19 % to reach 623.7 million (62
crore) while the female population has risen by 18.12 % to reach 586.5
million (58 crore).
Literates constitute 74 % of the total population aged seven years and
above and the data shows 26 % of the population is still unlettered.
India’s literacy rate has gone up from 64.83 % in 2001 to 74.04 % in
2011 showing an increase of 9.21 %.
The effective literacy rate for males rose from 75.26 to 82.14 %
marking a rise of 6.9 %, it increased by 11.8 % for females to go from
53.67 to 65.46 %.
The gap of 21.59 % points recorded between male and female literacy
rates in 2001 census has reduced to 16.68 % points in 2011. The
Planning Commission is targeting a reduction of this gap to 10 % points
by 2011-12.
The literacy rate of above 85 % was the target set by the Planning
Commission to be achieved by 2011-12.
Kerala has the highest literacy rate at 93.91 % followed by
Lakshadweep at 92.28 %. Bihar is at the bottom of the ladder with
literacy rate of 63.82 %.
India ranks a lowly 112 out of 134 countries in the World Economic
Forum's Global Gender Gap Index for 2010 .
India's child sex ratio has deteriorated in the past 10 years, now at 914
girls for per 1,000 boys; in 2001 the ratio was 927 per 1,000. It is the
lowest since Independence.
An estimated 15 million girls were wiped out – simply not born – in
India over the last decade, the figure is 25 million in China.
Chinese ultrasound manufacturers also see India as their big market.
Doctors in India make at least $200 million a year by conducting illegal
sex-selection procedures.
According to study, survey and research
45 % women of the total women labour force are desirous to be
engaged in part time jobs.
90 % women are engaged in household works.
About 45 % women says that there is no-one to help them in household
Women are giving priority to the self-employment.
Below 40 % women are aware to the facility of debt given for self-
Only 10 % women applies for financial facilities.
“How important it is to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.”
-- Maya Angelou
“…Gender Equality is critical to the development and peace of every nation.”
-- Kofi Annan
“….. We have miles to go, miles to go in the field of Women Welfare.”
-- Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru
“ To secure to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as
possible, is a worthy object of any good Government .”
-- Abraham Lincoln
No. Books Author
1Labour & Industrial Laws (Central Law Publications) S N Mishra
2Law Relating to Women & Children (Central Law Publications) S C Tripathi
3Labour & Social Welfare (Bharti Bhawan) P R N Sinha & Indubala
Industrial Relations, Trade Unionism & Social Problems (Pratiyogita
Sandarbh Publication) Pankaj Tiwary & Anshu
5Various Websites to get Latest, Updated & Reliable Data
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