In a progressive move to help more women join the labour-force and contribute, the Union government wants states to initiate the necessary rulings and reforms to their labour laws, to allow women to work night shifts in factories.
The labour and employment ministry wrote to all state chief secretaries, lobbying for the change in state laws that would permit women to work night shifts. The letter states that the “changed socio-economic scenario” and “new realities” call for this alteration in the Factories Act 1948. It argues that women constitute almost half of India’s population, and not allowing them to work at night will be injustice to people as well as to the economy. They further added that the amendment should be coupled with the necessary measure to ensure women’s safety at the workplace.
As the Factories Amendment Bill, which would permit women to work at night among other things, is pending for clearance in the parliament for the past two years, the Centre has urged the state ministries to take the initiative and put the reforms into effect at their ends instead.
“The central legislation is pending for quite some time and it’s required that states take the initiative. It’s a long pending demand of industry‑and if not the centre, then states must strive for it. It’s time to accelerate labour reforms,” Rituparna Chakraborty said to Mint, senior vice-president of Teamlease Services, a staffing company.
In the current state of labour laws, women are permitted to work between 6 am and 7 pm. Women constitute only one-fourth of our labour force, and this move will help strengthen the numbers by granting them equal opportunity to freely contribute.
In recent years, there has been demand from femaleemployees and manufacturing units requesting permissionfor women to work night shifts, so that “they can earn additional income and come for work at timings convenient to them,” the ministry said in its letter.
Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have already allowed women to work night shifts, and the letter urges other states to follow suit.
“When the centre is relatively slow on reforms due to unfavourable political environment, states have the opportunity and right to take the initiative. We shall facilitate this if they follow the reform path,” said a labour ministry official to Mint, who declined to be named.
This is a good time indeed for women in the workforce, as Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has also lobbied relentlessly to increase the maternity leave granted to women to 26 weeks from 12 weeks, and companies as well as startups are falling in line to provide an array of benefits to retain their female talent.