The right to sit must be the beginning - Hindustan Times
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The right to sit must be the beginning

ByHT Editorial
Sep 26, 2021 07:53 PM IST

The lack of access to seating works as a strong impediment to women’s participation in India’s workforce

On September 13, the Tamil Nadu (TN) assembly passed the amended Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, making it mandatory for shops, storefronts, and commercial establishments to provide employees with seating facilities. TN is the second state to do so after Kerala. With most establishments having no chairs or stools for salespersons who work for over 10 hours a day, often with no toilet or tea breaks, workers developed various physical ailments (and most of the workers are women). These rules defy every tenet of labour rights and human dignity, and are often compounded by paltry wages and scant benefits.

While granting workers the right to sit is a positive move, India has a long way to go (Representative Image) (AFP via Getty Images) PREMIUM
While granting workers the right to sit is a positive move, India has a long way to go (Representative Image) (AFP via Getty Images)

While granting workers the right to sit is a positive move, India has a long way to go. The shops and establishments acts are state-specific, and regulate the terms of employment and conditions of service of employees. However, labour rights experts are demanding more: National legislation to protect the fundamental rights of employees because issues such as the lack of access to seating and toilets are related to occupational health and safety. Such provisions should have been added to the Occupational Safety Health Working Conditions Code, 2020. At present, the Code is applicable to establishments that have more than 10 employees.

The lack of access to seating works as a strong impediment to women’s participation in India’s workforce. Indian women face many barriers to their entry into the labour market. The denial of basic working conditions adds to those problems, and forces them out of the workforce. This not only undermines India’s economic growth and development trajectory, but denies a chance for 48% of its population to fulfill their dreams and potential.

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