The government has proposed to increase the maximum limit for potential working hours or spread-over time to 12 hours from 10.5 hours earlier in the draft rules for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) Code. The weekly cap of working hours, though, has been retained at 48 hours in the rules.
“No worker shall be required or allowed to work in an establishment for more than forty-eight hours in any week. The period of work of a worker shall be so arranged that inclusive of his intervals for rest, shall not spread over for more than twelve hours in a day,” the draft rules said. In the OSH Code, which was passed in Parliament in September, the daily working hour limit had been set at eight hours.
Experts said the extension in the spread-over time will have adverse consequences on the workers. “The increase in spread-over time from 10 ½ hours as in the Factories Act, 1948 to 12 hours in the Rules could have some adverse consequences for the workers. By making 12 hours as a spread-over time, employers will be incentivised to keep the workers on worksite for the entire period. But one does not know what the workers will be expected to do for 90 minutes of extra time? If the employers keep the workers for the full 12 hours and if we include travel time which in metros would easily be another 60 minutes, then the work-life balance of the workers will be adversely affected. Also, it will incentivise the employers to go for two shifts in place of three shifts. Then, employment numbers might also probably decline,” XLRI Professor KR Shyam Sundar said.
The draft rules have also prescribed conditions for journey allowance for inter-state migrant workers stating that the allowance would be provided only if the worker has worked for a period of not less than 180 days in the concerned establishment during the preceding 12 months. This is expected to lead to exclusion of a large number of migrant workers as they do not work with longer tenure work contracts.
“…it will be hard to implement and will even affect employment chances by another employer should the worker leave the previous employer in the middle of the eligible period for journey allowance or may be forced to work for the original employer to be able to avail the allowance,” Sundar said.
The draft rules, which have been placed in public domain for 45 days, also propose a single nationwide licence for contractors and setting up of safety committees for establishments employing over 500 for normal ones and over 250 for those engaging in hazardous processes, a measure which experts said could exclude a large number of workers in smaller establishments.
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