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    The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020: A Quick Overview

    December 29, 2022

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    An overview of the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code of the New Labor Codes in India

    The Government of India is set to implement a set of four labor codes aimed at streamlining and simplifying the labor regulations in the country. This article explores one of the codes, the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code (OSHWC), 2020, and its underlying provisions. 

    What is The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020? 

    The government of India has put together a plan to combine India's 44 labor laws into four codes. The intention is to make India's labor laws easier to understand and facilitate ease of doing business. To streamline and rationalize the existing laws, the Central Government has combined them under four Codes. These have been categorized as follows: 

    • The Code on Wages, 2019    
    • The Industrial Relations Code, 2020    
    • The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020    
    • The Code on Social Security, 2020.  

    The Minister of State for Labor and Employment introduced the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSHWC), in the Lok Sabha on Sep. 19, 2020. It received the President's assent on September 28, 2020. The Code amends and codifies the rules governing workplace safety, health, and working conditions. It covers a wide range of issues related to occupational safety and health, including the provision of protective clothing and equipment, the provision of first aid and medical care, the prevention of accidents and injuries, and the promotion of healthy working conditions. 

    Which Laws Will Be Subsumed Under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020? 

     The Acts subsumed by the Code are:  

    • The Factories Act, 1948  
    • The Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970  
    • The Mines Act, 1952  
    • The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986  
    • The Building & Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996  
    • The Plantations Labor Act, 1951  
    • The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979  
    • The Working Journalist and Other News Paper Employees (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provision) Act, 1955  
    • The Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958  
    • The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981  
    • The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961  
    • The Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976  
    • The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966  

    What Is the Applicability of the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020? 

    The OHSW code will be applicable to factories with 20 or more employees where production is done with the help of electricity, as well as to those with at least 40 employees where manufacturing is done without the help of power. The Code amends and codifies the rules governing workplace safety, health, and working conditions. These regulations apply to people who work in factories, mines, docks, buildings and construction, plantations, contract labor, interstate migrant labor, working journalists, motor transport, sales promotion, and the movie industry. While the Central Government, State Governments, ships of war, and any nationality are exempt from the Code, it does apply to contract workers hired through a contractor in places of business where the Central Government or State Government is the major employer. 

    When Will the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Come Into Effect? 

    The Central Government will announce the date that the Code will go into effect and be operational in the Official Gazette. A single date may be set to make the entire Code operative, or various dates may be earmarked for implementing multiple provisions. The State Labor Departments have been issuing draft rules in relation to the Code since it was passed by the Central Government. These rules are expected to come into effect soon. 24 states and Union Territories have so far released proposed rules on the subject.

    What Are the Key Provisions of the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020? 

    The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code 2020 aims to combine 633 provisions from 13 significant labor laws into one code with 143 provisions. Some of the key provisions covered under the Code on Wages include: 

    1. Working Hours   

     Establishments will be allowed to change their daily working hours from 8 or 9 hours to 12 hours, with the maximum number of hours worked in a week capped at 48. However, they will be required to give three weekly offs to employees if employees work 12 hours per day for four days. Female employees may work past 7 p.m. and till 6 a.m. with their prior consent and if the government has given its approval. Journalists are limited to 144 hours of labor every four weeks. 

    2. Work From Home   

    The new law acknowledges ‘work from home’ as a crucial practice in contemporary work culture.  Adding it in a standing order for the service sector, the draft code reads: “Subject to conditions of appointment or agreement between employer and workers, employer may allow a worker to work from home for such period or periods as may be determined by employer.”  

    3. Leave

    The new law has reduced the minimum requirement of the number of days worked from 240 to 180 to be eligible for leave.  However, entitlement to earned leave has the same criterion as before: one-day break for every 20 days worked.  The limit for carrying forward leaves remains set at 30.   

    Leave encashment has been made mandatory at the end of the year under the new law, as opposed to the existing law that provides for leave encashment at the end of the employment period.  If an employer has applied for leave with wages but has not been granted that, they shall be entitled to carry the refused leave forward without any limit.  

    4. Rights of employees 

    Among their responsibilities are maintaining their personal health and safety, abiding by safety and health regulations, and reporting unsafe work-related situations to the Inspector. The right to ask their employer for information on safety and health requirements is one of the rights that employees also have. 

    5. Duties of employers 

    The following responsibilities must be met:  

    • Providing a workplace free from risks that could result in illnesses or injuries 
    • Offering free annual health examinations to employees in establishments included in the notification 
    • Sending appointment letters to employees 
    • Notifying the appropriate authorities in the event that an accident at work results in the death or serious bodily injury of an employee

    Employers are required to perform additional tasks in factories, mines, ports, plantations, and buildings and construction work, such as providing a risk-free work environment and educating staff members on safety procedures. 

    6. Inter-state migrant workers 

    The OSH Code also protects the rights of inter-state migrant workers. This is done by making sure that the contractor gives inter-state migrant workers all the same benefits that regular workers get under the different labor laws. Also, the employer of every business that qualifies is required to pay each interstate migrant worker a one-time travel fare to and from his home state and the place where he works. 

    7. Working conditions and welfare activities 

    The Central Government will announce the working conditions. These might include a clean work environment, potable water, and restrooms. According to the guidelines announced by the Central Government, welfare facilities like canteens, adequate and suitable facilities of washrooms for male and female employees separately, bathing places and locker rooms for male, female, and transgender employees separately, sitting arrangements for all employees who have to work standing up because their jobs require it, first aid kits, and crèches may be offered. For industries, mines, docks, and building and construction activity, additional amenities, such as welfare officers and temporary accommodation, may be specified. 

    The Code is divided into three schedules, each of which specifies 29 diseases that employers must report to the authorities in the event that a worker contracts them, 78 safety issues that the government may control, and 29 industries with potentially dangerous operations. The Central Government has the right to alter the listings. 

    8. Inspector-cum-Facilitators

    Inspector-cum-facilitators will be responsible for performing inspections and conducting inquiries into incidents. In the case of factories, mines, ports, and building and construction workers, they also have additional authorities, including the ability to limit the number of personnel employed in specific areas of the business and forbidding operations in situations of danger and risk.  

    9. Bodies and Committees  

    Advisory Bodies: At the federal and state levels, respectively, the Central and State governments will establish Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Boards. These Boards will provide guidance to the federal and state governments on the standards and laws under the code. 

    Safety Committees: In some establishments and for a specific class of workers, the competent authorities may require the formation of safety committees. Representatives of the employer and the workforce will make up the committees. Employer representatives cannot be more in number than employee representatives. These committees will serve as a channel of communication between businesses and workers. 

    10. National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board  

    The Central Government must set up a National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board to carry out the duties given to it by or under this Code and to give advice to the Central Government about the standards, rules, and regulations that will be made under this Code. 

    Also, it says that the State Government must set up a board called the State Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board. This board's job is to give the State Government advice on how to implement this Code. The State Government calls this board the State Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board. 

    11. Offences and penalties  

    The Code lists a number of offenses. A violation that results in the death of an employee is penalized by up to two years in prison, a fine of up to five lakh rupees, or both. Additionally, the courts can order that at least half of the fine be given to the victim's family as compensation. For any other violation where the penalty is not specified, the employer will be fined between two and three lakh rupees. If an employee breaks any of the rules in the Code, he could be fined up to Rs 10,000. For first-time offenses that don't lead to jail time, the settlement amount can be up to half of the maximum fine. 

    Summing Up

    Establishments subject to the Code must register with registering officers appointed by the federal or state governments within 60 days of the Code's implementation. Additionally, some businesses such as factories and mines as well as those that employ beedi and cigar workers might need additional permits in order to operate. The OSH Code is being put into place at a very important time when workers' rights have been debated everywhere, and their plight has especially been highlighted during the pandemic. The OSH Code makes it clear that it wants to deal with problems that have come up, such as those of interstate migrant workers. With the introduction of the single license, there is also a clear move toward making the compliance regime easier to understand.  

    The Way Forward for Organizations  

    The new labor codes in India represent a significant reform of the country's labor laws. Businesses in India are expected to benefit from the disentanglement of labor regulations and compliances. The four labor codes have been enacted with the aim of consolidating and simplifying the existing labor laws and making them more relevant and effective in the contemporary economic and social context. Once the codes are enacted, organizations will need to ensure they are in compliance with the new laws. It will be crucial that the implementation of the codes is closely monitored and that any issues or challenges that arise are addressed in a timely and effective manner. HR leaders in organizations will be expected to spearhead this implementation and while it may seem challenging, staying on top of these reforms doesn’t have to be a hassle for your organization. 

    To learn more about the labor law reforms in India, get insights into their impact on businesses, and explore how Darwinbox can help you implement them seamlessly in your organization, download this comprehensive guide. 

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