Laws concerning Working Women in India

The Lijjat-Papad case has set an example of independent women working and earning and the marvellous heritage Indian women imbibe when it comes to successfully running an organisation without any help from the 'pillars' of the household, i.e. men. All while running a family and fulfilling all responsibilities expected of them.

Historically speaking, Indian women have always broken barriers, worked for their rights to reach their desired goals, and paved the way for other such women to realise their dreams.

Women have taken up male-dominated jobs in the field. A great example would be Shila Dawre, the country's first woman auto-rickshaw driver.

Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza, and Mary Kom have beamed through the shine of their numerous medals. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is another prominent personality to admire with a billionaire company 'Biocon' at hand. The recent IPO of NYKAA only made news with the owners' name 'Falguni Nayar…'. These make an impression of the immense power and calibre women hold to out-perform even when the country's cultural and social infrastructure is imbalanced with a lack of support for them. Keeping a count of such inspiring business start-ups/contributions by women is out of the question today.

Need for Laws for Women

The work participation rate of women is 25.51% as per the 2011 census, and 30% for rural areas, which is enormous compared to urban areas with 15.44% of participation.

Participation of women in the working population was minimal compared to the current numbers. Initially, women entered sectors that were almost deserted when it came to women. Hence, turning tables in a male-dominated industry was a mammoth task.

We should be proud of women's milestones in their respective fields. However, women usually face several barriers. Men's ego and the 'reluctance to change' mentality puts women at a disadvantage. Society considers women inferior by default, as taking care of the family is their primary and only duty.

In front of the law, men and women are equal, and it has made sure such discrimination based on gender is not promoted at any stage. The government has introduced several legislations for women's safety, security, and well-being in the workplace.

Constitutional and Legal Provisions for Women

In the Indian Constitution's Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, and Directive Principles of State Policy, the principle of gender equality is incorporated. The Constitution guarantees equality between the sexes and authorises the government to take affirmative measures to 'her' advantage.

Our laws, development strategies, plans, and initiatives have all attempted to achieve equality within the country's framework. India has also adopted several international agreements for the same. Women's equality is guaranteed under the human rights conventions. One of the crucial endorsements was the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), signed in 1993.

List of Protective Provisions for Women Employees

The Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013

The biggest fear in the minds of women and their family is sexual harassment in the workplace. Moreover, it goes unreported and unattended—the Act puts forth the obligations for employers to implement a complaint registration process.

● An Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) has to be established under Section 4.

● The ICC must have at least 4 members, including a chairperson who is a senior woman employee, two employees who are preferably women with involvement in community service or expertise in the area of law, and a third party member who is preferably associated with a non-government entity.

● Employers are required by Section 19 to conduct introductory lectures and public awareness campaigns to educate employees about the concerns of sexual harassment and aid the victim if she chooses to file a police complaint.

● Further, employers are required to display details of the penal consequences of indulging in acts of sexual harassment at the workplace.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

Women are usually faced with unconventional questions during the interview regarding their personal life and are often critically judged on their choices for marriage and childbirth. They are constantly made aware that they are lesser than men and less productive. It pressurises women to perform well even during adversity or inconvenience for fear of pay cuts. The Act helps solve these issues and increases the quality of time a mother can dedicate to the child and her health without worrying about the source of income.

● Article 42 of the Indian Constitution requires the government to state necessary measures for a just and humane work environment and maternity leave.

● The maternity benefit is a payment made to a working woman based on the daily average earnings of her absence preceding the delivery, including the day and 6 weeks after that.

● The government reviewed and passed the resolution on maternity benefits, financial benefits during absences for pregnancy, leave for raising children, and non-termination of employment during pregnancy and immediately after the child's birth.

The Factories Act, 1948

● Prohibition of Night Work: No woman must be required or legally allowed to work in any factory before and after 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., as per Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948. Non-compliance may lead to imprisonment of up to 2 years or a fine of up to ₹1,00,000 or both.

No woman shall be compelled or permitted to work in any industrial facility, before and after 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., according to Section 25 of the Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966.

The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976

● Wage parity is one of the most critical facets of service law jurisprudence that has developed over time.

● If two workers do the same job, they should be compensated equally.

● There will be no bias in the hiring of men and women.

● No employer shall discriminate against women in the recruitment of the same or equivalent job or selection for promotions, training, or transfer.

Other Important Provisions

Separate latrines and urinals for men and women are provided under the following legislation:

● Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970: Rule 53.

● The Factories Act, 1948: Section 19

● The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (RECS) Central Rules, 1980: Rule 42.

● The Mines Act, 1952: Section 20.

● Plantations Labour Act, 1951: Section 9.

Provision for Crèches

When more than 30 women are employed in the factory, it becomes mandatory to provide for the crèch facility. Provision for crèches exists under the following legislation:

● Section 48 of the Factories Act, 1948.

● Section 44 of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (RECS) Act, 1979.

● Section 12 of the Plantations Labour Act, 1951.

● Section 14 of the Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966.

● Section 35 of the Building and other Constructions (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) 1996.

Women-Specific Initiatives

  1. National Commission for Women: The Government established this statutory body in January 1992 with a specific mandate of analysing and supervising all legal and constitutional protection given to women, reviewing current laws and suggesting amendments.

  2. Women's Reservation in Local Self-Government: The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Acts, passed by Parliament in 1992, guarantee one-third of all seats in all elected offices in local governments, whether rural or urban.

  3. The National Plan of Action for the Girl Child (1991-2000): The goal of this initiative is to assure the female child's survival, protection, and growth, with the ultimate goal of constructing a brighter future for her.

Such provisions have helped women fight for their place, even when men have a competitive edge over them. These laws ensure support when women raise their voices against exploitation and inequality.

While these sound great on paper, implementation is still poor; the ground reality is heart-breaking. Ensuring the proper functioning of committees and legislation is in the hands of private individuals susceptible to greed. The need of the hour is strict implementation and support wherever necessary.


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