The government has sought comments and suggestions on the proposed changes it wants in archaic labour laws, which will allow women to work in some prohibited industries and increase the number of hours a worker can put in as overtime.
Taking a cue from Rajasthan government that cleared changes in three key national labours laws, the NDA government on June 5 proposed changes in Factory Act 1948 and sought comments and suggestion from all stakeholders.
"The ministry of labour and employment proposes to amend the Factories Act 1948. It is requested the comments on the proposed changes be sent to the ministry within 30 days," a circular issued from the labour ministry said.
The move is in accordance with the BJP's promise in its manifesto before the Lok Sabha elections which said it would "bring together all stakeholders to review our labour laws which are outdated, complicated and even contradictory".
One of the important changes proposed is the removal of discriminatory restrictions on women employees.
Under the new Act, women will not only be allowed to work in a number of industries they were barred from, they would also be allowed to work in night shifts.
Justifying the move the government circular said, "Many women's organisations have filed petitions in high courts challenging the provisions in section 66 (barring night shifts) as discriminatory and biased.
"Many high courts have allowed employment of women in night shifts. This will provide flexibility in the matter of employment of women during night shifts," it added.
The night shifts for women, however, will be permitted only when adequate safeguards exists in factories.
The next important changes suggested is the increase of overtime an employee can work in a quarter. It has been increased from 50 hours to 100. According to sources in the labour ministry, increase in overtime from 50 to 100 hours is necessitated by the fact that in certain industries 50 hours proved inadequate.
The other changes include increasing the penalty for violation of any provision of factories Act up to three times, and reducing to 90 from 240 the number of days an employee needs to work before becoming eligible for benefits like leave with pay.