In the first concrete move towards a re-look at the country’s archaic labour laws, the government has reviewed a 62-year-old law, permitting workers in offshore oil and gas rigs to have flexible working hours so that they can work at a stretch.
To this effect, the labour ministry has notified changes in the Mines Act of 1952 exempting persons employed in exploration and production of oil and gas mines in India from a mandatory eight hour work day and a weekly off.
However, the workers will not be deployed for more than 12 hours on any one day and 21 days at a stretch, along with an equal number of rest days.
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The move is a big relaxation for oil and gas companies that routinely depute such workers to offshore rigs or at remote onshore locations and do not find it feasible to follow the defined work hours under the labour laws.
While these firms, including those in the public sector, have been following a flexible system despite any legal backing, they had approached the labour ministry last year for an exemption as their workforce has seen a significant rise.
By setting a precedent for the oil and gas sector, the government can also consider similar exemptions for sectors where workers require flexibility in working hours.
As reported by The Indian Express last year, the labour ministry has notified these changes through an executive order rather than approaching the Parliament with amendments to the Mines Act that governs the working conditions of these workers.
According to the notification, the workers deployed for the 21 days “one-and-off” work pattern will be provided with accommodation and welfare amenities including free boarding and lodging, free transportation facility, free medical facilities as well as recreation options. Employers will also be expected to pay overtime or extra wages to these workers.
Further, employers and workers will have to sign written agreements before starting the flexible pattern of work, the labour ministry has said.