What Women Should Know About The New Labour Codes Of 2022

The new labour codes make significant changes to work hours and modes; will they benefit working women in India? Take a look!

The Labour Laws in the country have recently been consolidated into four Labour Codes, which have been passed by the Parliament between 2020 and 2021. While these new labour codes are intended to bring significant changes to work hours and take-home pay and several other important aspects of labour law, here’s a closer look at how they might impact working women in India.

On Friday mornings as you drag yourself to your workstation, have you ever wondered what it would feel like if you could ring in weekend vibes a day early. Wouldn’t life be a tad sweeter if only spend your Fridays lying in bed until noon? This could soon become a reality, with the implementation of the new labour codes.

Your employer may choose to have four working days instead of five. But you might need to work 12 hours instead of the mandated eight hours on the working days. Does the proposition of one less day to work still seem endearing to you?

What are the major changes expected with the new Labour Codes coming into force?

How working hours could change

The daily working hours have been capped at a maximum of 12 hours and the weekly working hours at 48 hours. Thus, the weekly working limit remains the same; however, employers have the option of choosing 4-day working weeks.

Further, women can be employed for shifts between 7 P.M – 6 A.M with their consent and adequate safety measures adopted by the employer.  

Changes in take-home salary

The basic salary will have to be 50% of the gross salary. Thus, employees will be making larger PF contributions and the gratuity deductions would also increase. But this would also result in higher employer contribution to PF. Secondly, the minimum tenure for withdrawing gratuity has been reduced from 5 to 1 year.

Work From Home is more official now

Work from home has been officially recognised by the Central Government, and the Union Labour Ministry has included the same in the option in establishments, as part of its draft model standing order for the service sector.

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The draft code specifies that subject to the agreement between the employer and employee and the terms of employment, the employer may allow an employee to work from home.

How beneficial would the new Labour Codes be for women?

The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020 stated that only 18.6% of women of working age in India participated in the labour force. The participation of Indian women in the formal economy is among the lowest in the world according to World Bank. Will the change in the labour laws see an improvement in the scenario?

The work timing in a regular workplace in India is a sensitive issue. Your employment contract can specify eight hours of work, but the reality is anything but that. Sad and archaic as it may sound, even in today’s date when an employee leaves the workplace on time, they are scorned – this has proved to be the biggest bane for the women at the workplace.

In a society where the household chores and child care largely remain the woman’s sole responsibility, the balance between work and home is elusive for most women. In such a situation the 4-day working week would be a nightmare most women would not want to face.

If organisations were to adopt this practice, there could be a further drop in female participation in the workforce; giving 12 hours to work while also being responsible for the home front, while braving the barbs for not being available to all 24*7 can sap any woman’s energy.

The revised working hours can prove to be a boon, only if employers make these timings flexible, letting employees decide the hours they would be available for work. This would also help increase the efficiency at work. This would help women strike a better balance between work and home.

Is there a silver lining to the new labour codes?

The new labour laws permit women to be employed for night shifts, i.e., for shifts after 7 P.M and before 6 A.M. This can be done if the women consent to the same. This could be a big boost for the female workforce, as sadly, many a career has been cut short due to these working restrictions. But will the employers ensure the safety of the women working the night shifts?

Will strong guidelines be framed by the states to ensure this reform proves to be beneficial for the female workforce? Only time can tell, until then we can only keep our fingers crossed.

Work from home has found a place in the legislation. This could help make remote working more prevalent, which could help a lot of women continue their work or even re-start their careers. But again, it is at the employer’s discretion. While some jobs by their very nature may not allow for working from home, a vast section of employers in the country are still old school and prefer the physical presence of their employees at the workplace. Thus, working from home requires a mindset change to become more prevalent, but the inclusion in the legislation could prove to be a start.

“Women’s empowerment”: has the aim been fulfilled?

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry in the presentation on the benefits of the new labour law proudly proclaims that the laws aid in women’s empowerment. This also mentions the amendments brought to the Maternity Benefit Act in 2017 which increased the duration of maternity break for women, ensured leave for women who have adopted children below 3 months of age and made creches compulsory at workplaces which have more than 50 employees. However, the implementation of these laws has left much to be desired and they do not cover women working in the unorganised sector, who form a big chunk of the female workforce.

The current reforms do present a silver lining, but for them to truly aid in the empowerment of women, what is required is a more inclusive and far-sighted approach.

Image credits: Shylendra Hoode/Getty Signature Images, via Canva Pro

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About the Author

Parvadavardini Sethuraman

A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and curious little princess. I long to see the day when Gender equality is a reality in the world. read more...

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