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Monday, January 25, 2021

Post-Covid world: Flexible hours, work from home among norms

The Indian Express had reported on December 11 about the government’s proposal to bring new rules through the model standing order for the service sector to incorporate, among other things, flexibility of work timings and the option to work from home.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: January 3, 2021 8:34:05 pm
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Incorporating the concept of ‘work from home’ and flexible shifts in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Labour Ministry has issued draft model standing order for the services sector for the first time. The Ministry has also issued draft model standing orders — rules of conduct for workers employed in establishments — for manufacturing and mining sectors separately, giving a 30-day window to stakeholders to send their comments for these orders.

“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 the employer,” the draft model standing order for the services sector stated.

The Indian Express had reported on December 11 about the government’s proposal to bring new rules through the model standing order for the service sector to incorporate, among other things, flexibility of work timings and the option to work from home. The model standing orders for the services, manufacturing and mining sectors will be applicable to the industrial establishments employing 300 or more number of workers who are working in the industrial establishments covered under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020.

The draft rules provide for flexible shifts within the weekly shift limit of 48 hours a week. “More than one shift may be worked in a department or departments or any section of a department of the industrial establishment at the discretion of the employer. If more than one shift is worked, the worker shall be liable to be transferred from one shift to another. No shift working shall be discontinued without twenty one days’ notice being given in writing to the workers prior to such discontinuance,” it said.

For payment of wages, the draft order states that the workers need to be paid wages on a working day before the seventh day after the last day of the wage period, for which the wages are payable.

It also provides for medical aid if a worker meets with an accident in the course of his employment, then the employer, at his expense, will have to make satisfactory arrangements for immediate and necessary medical aid to the injured worker and shall arrange for his further treatment, if considered necessary.

The draft order for the services sector also provides that in the case of the IT sector, the working hour shall be as per agreement or conditions of appointment between employer and workers. “Habitual (offender) with respect to indiscipline has been defined if the worker found guilty of any misconduct three or more times in preceding twelve months,” as per the draft order.

Rail travel facility has been extended to the workers in the (entire) mining sector. Currently, it is being availed by the workers in coal mines only.

The model standing orders adopted in respect of an industrial establishment will also be applicable to all other units of the industrial establishment irrespective of location, the Ministry said.

As per the orders, where an employer adopts model standing orders of the central government with respect to matters relevant to industrial establishment or undertaking, then, such model standing order shall be deemed to have been certified.

The Industrial Relations Code passed by Parliament in September had raised the threshold for requirement of a standing order to over 300 workers from 100 workers earlier. This implies industrial establishments with up to 300 workers are not required to furnish a standing order – something that has been criticised as giving space to companies to introduce arbitrary service conditions.

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