Labour Laws

Purpose of Labour Legislation

Labour legislation that is adapted to the economic and social challenges of the modern world of work fulfils three crucial roles:

  • It establishes a legal system that facilitates productive individual and collective employment relationships, and therefore a productive economy;
  • By providing a framework within which employers, workers and their representatives can interact with regard to work-related issues, it serves as an important vehicle for achieving harmonious industrial relations based on workplace democracy;
  • It provides a clear and constant reminder and guarantee of fundamental principles and rights at work which have received broad social acceptance and establishes the processes through which these principles and rights can be implemented and enforced.

But experience shows that labour legislation can only fulfills these functions effectively if it is responsive to the conditions on the labour market and the needs of the parties involved. The most efficient way of ensuring that these conditions and needs are taken fully into account is if those concerned are closely involved in the formulation of the legislation through processes of social dialogue. The involvement of stakeholders in this way is of great importance in developing a broad basis of support for labour legislation and in facilitating its application within and beyond the formal structured sectors of the economy.

Constitutional provisions with regard to labour laws

The relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need for protecting and safeguarding the interest of labour as human beings has been enshrined in Chapter-III (Articles 16, 19, 23 & 24) and
6Chapter IV (Articles 39, 41, 42, 43, 43A & 54) of the Constitution of India keeping in line with Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.

Labour is a concurrent subject in the Constitution of India implying that both the Union and the state governments are competent to legislate on labour matters and administer the same. The bulk of important legislative acts have been enacted by the Parliament.

LABOUR LAWS IN INDIA

The term ‘labour’ means productive work especially physical work done for wages. Labour law also known as employment law is the body of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents which address the legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and their organizations. There are two broad categories of labour law. First, collective labour law relates to the tripartite relationship between employee, employer and union. Second, individual labour law concerns employees’ rights at work and through the contract for work.

The law relating to labour and employment in India is primarily known under the broad category of “Industrial Law”. The prevailing social and economic conditions have been largely influential in shaping the Indian labour legislation, which regulate various aspects of work such as the number of hours of work, wages, social security and facilities provided.

The labour laws of independent India derive their origin, inspiration and strength partly from the views expressed by important nationalist leaders during the days of national freedom struggle, partly from the debates of the Constituent Assembly and partly from the provisions of the Constitution and the International Conventions and Recommendations. The relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need for protecting and safeguarding the interest of labour as human beings has been enshrined in Chapter-III (Articles 16, 19, 23 & 24) and Chapter IV (Articles 39, 41, 42, 43, 43A & 54) of the Constitution of India keeping in line with Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. The Labour Laws were also influenced by important human rights and the conventions and standards that have emerged from the United Nations. These include right to work of one’s choice, right against discrimination, prohibition of child labour, just and humane conditions of work, social security, protection of wages, redress of grievances, right to organize and form trade unions, collective bargaining and participation in management. The labour laws have also been significantly influenced by the deliberations of the various Sessions of the Indian Labour Conference and the International Labour Conference. Labour legislations have also been shaped and influenced by the recommendations of the various National Committees and Commissions such as First National Commission on Labour (1969) under the Chairmanship of Justice Gajendragadkar, National Commission on Rural Labour (1991), Second National Commission on Labour (2002) under the Chairmanship of Shri Ravindra Varma etc. and judicial pronouncements on labour related matters specifically pertaining to minimum wages, bonded labour, child labour, contract labour etc.
Under the Constitution of India, Labour is a subject in the concurrent list where both the Central and State Governments are competent to enact legislations. As a result , a large number of labour laws have been enacted catering to different aspects of labour namely, occupational health, safety, employment, training of apprentices, fixation, review and revision of minimum wages, mode of payment of wages, payment of compensation to workmen who suffer injuries as a result of accidents or causing death or disablement, bonded labour, contract labour, women labour and child labour, resolution and adjudication of industrial disputes, provision of social security such as provident fund, employees’ state insurance, gratuity, provision for payment of bonus, regulating the working conditions of certain specific categories of workmen such as plantation labour, beedi workers etc.

The legislations can be categorized as follows:

1) Labour laws enacted by the Central Government, where the Central Government has the sole responsibility for enforcement.
2) Labour laws enacted by Central Government and enforced both by Central and State Governments.
3) Labour laws enacted by Central Government and enforced by the State Governments. 4) Labour laws enacted and enforced by the various State Governments which apply to respective States.

(a) Labour laws enacted by the Central Government, where the Central Government has the sole responsibility for enforcement

1. The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948
2. The Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act,1952
3. The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986
4. The Mines Act, 1952
5. The Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare (Cess) Act, 1976
6. The Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labor Welfare Fund Act, 1976
7. The Mica Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1946
8. The Beedi Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1976
9. The Limestone and Dolomite Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1972
10. The Cine Workers Welfare (Cess) Act, 1981
11. The Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1976
12. The Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981

(b) Labour laws enacted by Central Government and enforced both by Central and State Governments

13. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
14. The Building and Other Constructions Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
15. The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970.
16. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
17. The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
18. The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
19. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.
20. The Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act, 1988
21. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
22. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
23. The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
24. The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
25. The Payment of Wages Act, 1936
26. The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1981
27. The Building and Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996
28. The Apprentices Act, 1961
29. Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008
30. Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages Act, 1958
31. Merchant Shipping Act, 1958
32. Sales Promotion Employees Act, 1976
33. Dangerous Machines (Regulation) Act, 1983
34. Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1948
35. Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) (Inapplicability to Major Ports) Act, 1997
36. Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act, 2005

(c) Labour laws enacted by Central Government and enforced by the State Governments

37. The Employers’ Liability Act, 1938
38. The Factories Act, 1948
39. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961
40. The Personal Injuries (Compensation Insurance) Act, 1963
41. The Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1962
42. The Plantation Labour Act, 1951
43. The Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976
44. The Trade Unions Act, 1926
45. The Weekly Holidays Act, 1942
46. The Working Journalists and Other Newspapers Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955
47. The Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923
48. The Employment Exchange (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1959
49. The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act 1938
50. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
51. The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966

IMPORTANT CASE LAWS

1. Apprentices Act, 1961
2. Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
3. Employees Provident Funds Act, 1952
4. Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972