Tamil Nadu tables Bill to ensure seating facilities for employees at shops

A similar rule was brought in by Kerala in 2018 following protests to ensure the right of women workers to sit during work hours.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin. (File)

The Tamil Nadu government on Monday tabled a Bill in the Assembly to mandate all shops and establishments to facilitate seating arrangements for employees.

A similar rule was brought in by Kerala in 2018 following protests to ensure the right of women workers to sit during work hours.

“The premises of every establishment shall have suitable seating arrangements for all employees so that they may take advantage of any opportunity to sit which may occur in the course of their work and thereby avoid ‘on their toes’ situation throughout the working hours,” said the Bill description meant for an amendment to the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947. The amended portion will be added after Section 22 of the Act, said C V Ganesan, Minister for Labour Welfare and Skill Development.

The statement of objects and reasons said those employed in shops and establishments are made to stand throughout their duty time, resulting in varied health issues. “Considering the plight of the employees who are on their toes throughout their duty time, it is felt necessary to provide seating facilities to all the employees of the shops and establishments.”

Members of the labour advisory board have unanimously approved the amendment.

With one of the largest textile and clothing units in the country – with over 65 percent of the total spinning units in the country – the new Bill is also meant for thousands of employees, especially women, attached to the retail sector.

For over three decades, the state has been reporting several trends in the industrial and retail sector that were risking or violating the basic rights of employees – such as the Sumangali Scheme, in which parents from poorer, rural backgrounds send their children, especially daughters, to work. Agents of big retail groups visit villages to hire teens and women for a sum, usually Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh, which would be paid in one or two installments for a contract that lasts for six months to two years.

“These highly exploitative bonded labour practices in the retail sector may have gone through some changes over the years but the plight of labourers continue to be the same. This Bill would be ensuring their rights to sit while at work,” said a senior labour department officer.

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