Women empowerment is the concept which we came across in the last few years and this has made a notable impact in labour jurisprudence also. Last decade we faced a lot of changes in our society and the Government has enacted few laws concerning women and amended the existing laws in favour of women empowerment. Such laws include Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017. The other labour laws also have provisions for the women but the above-mentioned legislations are specially made for women. Let us see what these laws possess for the development of women.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 or otherwise known as POSH Act 2013 was enacted especially for women who face sexual harassment at workplace. Under this Act, if a woman faces any kind of sexual abuse (physical or verbal or any request or demand for sexual favour) at workplace then she can seek remedy by making a written complaint to the Internal Committee or Local Committee established under POSH Act, 2013. The Act has given the procedures and rules which have to be followed while inquiring the complaint made under this Act.
The employers also possess a responsibility to assist the victims of sexual harassment and necessary action has to be taken by him when directions are given by the Committee. Only women (includes employee, client, domestic worker, student, apprentice, trainee, employee of other establishments, etc.) can make a complaint under this Act and this Act is applicable only when sexual harassment happens at workplace. This special legislation was made only for the protection of women against sexual harassment at the workplace since it was one of disturbing factor for women to withdraw the career opportunity.
Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017:
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was amended in 2017 with new provisions which provide extended benefits to the women who undergo pregnancy during their work/job. The Act grants maternity leave of 26 weeks to the female employee who has worked in an establishment for at least 80 days before 12 months. The maternity leave can also parted for pre-birth period which may extend up to 8 weeks and remaining can be used after childbirth. This maternity benefit is available to a woman for first two surviving children only. The woman who got pregnant for a third child and those who adopt a child below the age of three months and commissioning mother can avail maternity benefit up to 12 weeks.
The employers those having an establishment with more than 50 employees must provide a crèche facility inside the workplace and mothers (women employees) should be permitted to visit the crèche for 4 times a day. After the expiry of 26 weeks maternity period, if possible the employer should allow the woman to work from home according to the convenience and nature of work. The Act also puts a mandatory obligation on the employer that he/she must inform the female employees about the benefits available to her under this Act while recruiting them for employment.
Other labour laws:
Besides the above discussed Acts, the Factories Act, 1948 insist the prohibition of night work to women i.e. the working hours must be between 6 AM and 7 PM. The Act provides the facility of separate latrines and urinals for female employees and it also prohibits the employment of women in cleaning or lubricating any machinery when it is in motion. Similar provisions are also available in other Acts such as the Mines Act, 1952, Plantation Labour Act, 1951 etc.
The main aims of these women-centric laws are to attract more women to achieve in different fields and this can be achieved only through proper regulations. The weeds which disturb the development of women can be easily destroyed through law and those who violate such law are punished with imprisonment or fine. This kind of women-centric laws receives a warm welcome among the public since it serves the purpose of women empowerment.[i]
“The views of the authors are personal“
[i] Ministry of Labour and Employment, Women Labour, https://labour.gov.in/womenlabour/about-women-labour, (Last visited 8th Mar. 2020, 10.53 PM).