The government has drafted a new labour law, with the overriding objective of ensuring workers’ dignity and well-being at the workplace. The draft code on occupational safety, health and working conditions (OSH) proposes to make the workplace free from hazards that can cause injury or occupational disease for the workers. The OSH code, the last among the proposed four aimed at amalgamating 44 extant central labour Acts, also makes it mandatory for establishments having at least 10 employees furnish to every worker an appointment letter.
Analysts said the proposal would not only ensure dignity of labour, it would also ensure formalisation of the workforce in the country, which currently stands at around 10% of the total estimated fifty crore workforce. The government has already introduced the Code on wages, which proposes a universal minimum wage for the entire working population, including unorganised sector workers, in the Lok Sabha. The Code on industrial relations that will allow firms employing up to 300 people against 100 now to retrench/lay off workers and/or close down without government approval and the Code on social security & welfare, that aims to bring almost all workers under the social security net, are yet to get the Cabinet’s clearance for introduction in Parliament.
The OSH Code also make it mandatory for employers to comply with the occupational safety and health standards made under the Code where ensuring periodical medical examination and prescribed tests of the employee employed in the establishment is also a prerequisite. “Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the employees,” it said, adding that employers would not levy any charge from the employees in respect of anything done or provided for maintenance of safety and health at workplace, including conduct of medical examination and investigation for the purpose of detecting occupational diseases.
The code also seeks to set up a National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board which will advise the Centre on standards, rules and regulations to be made under the Code. Under the chairmanship of the union labour secretary, the 13-member will implement the provisions of the Code and refer to the Centre policy relating to occupational safety and health. The terms of the office of the members will be of five years. Since labour is on the concurrent list, the code allows states to constitute such Boards to be called, the State Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board, to advise the state governments on this matter.