The government is all set for changing the law to allow women to work night shifts in factories, currently restricted to a 7pm pack-up time, while employers will have to ensure their workplace safety and drop them home safely as well.
It is unlikely to accept a parliamentary panel’s objections to a proposed bill for amending the factories act, 1948, that limits women’s working hours to daytime or till just a little after sundown.
The committee has asked the government to consider all safety angles before ratifying the changes because of mounting incidents of crime against women working late into the night.
“In view of a spate of events all over the country where women working at odd hours have been subjected to physical harassment and brutality as well as mental trauma, the committee would like to caution the ministry not to undermine the importance of safety provisions and leave any loopholes in the safeguard and protective clauses for such vulnerable women workers,” it said.
But the objections looked a little tenuous as women are already allowed to work night shifts in call centres, hospitals and other white collar jobs.
Labour ministry officials said the revised bill, likely to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, intends to give equal opportunities to all workers and employers will be legally responsible for providing safety to women workers working night shifts.
“In case of night shifts for women worker, the occupier shall be fully responsible for safety within the factory premises and during transit from workplace to their home,” a note on the revised bill states.
It maintains that night duty for women shall be voluntary, with written consent on record.
The government has sought to change the legislation as part of a drive to reform archaic labour laws. Sectors such as textile and handicraft that have a sizeable number of women in their workforce will benefit from the amended law.
The proposed amendment will make it mandatory for the employer to ensure “adequate safeguards exist in the factory as regards to occupational safety and health, provision of shelter, restrooms, lunch rooms, night crèches and ladies’ toilets, and equal opportunity for women workers”.
There has to be adequate protection from sexual harassment and safe transportation from the factory to the doorstep of their home.