Parliament Monsoon Session, 2020: Part-II

Parliament Monsoon Session, 2020: Part-II

This write up put some light on the diverse laws passed by the Parliament’s Monsoon Session this year. The Parliament on 23nd September, 2020 passed three major labour law codes i.e. The Code on Social Security, 2020, The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 and The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 by merging 24 existing labour laws into codes so as to bring labour reforms in the country.

With the enactment of these Codes various labour laws such as The Factories Act, The Contract Labour Act, The Mines Act, The Employee’s Compensation Act, The Employees’ State Insurance Act, The Payment of Gratuity Act, The Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, The Trade Unions Act, The Industrial Disputes Act and many more are repealed.

Let’s emphasis on the newest provisions concerning labour laws enshrined under the newest pieces of legislation:-

The Code on Social Security, 2020

Social security fund for both organized and informal workers: Under this new enactment the Govt. will set up a social security fund for both organized and informal workers as well as gig workers and platform workers. Informal workers means home based workers and self employed workers. The term gig worker refers to workers outside the traditional employer-employee relationship, and platform worker are those who access organizations or individuals through online platform to provide services or to unravel specific problems.

The Code also provides the provisions for registration of all three categories of workers i.e. informal workers, gig workers and platform workers.

National security scheme for gig worker and platform workers: The Govt. may establish a National Security Board for the purpose of welfare of gig workers and platform workers and this board can recommend and monitor schemes for gig worker and platform workers. This board will include the Director General of ESIC, 5 representatives each from aggregators, state governments, gig workers and platform workers.

Changes in definitions: The Code brings the changes in definitions like expanding the definition of ‘employees’ by including contractual workers, expanding the definition of ‘inter-state migrant workers’ by including self employed workers from other states, expanding definition of ‘platform workers’ to additional categories of services or activities as may be notified by the Govt. and exempting construction work from the ambit of ‘building or other construction work’ if the entire cost of construction work exceeds 50 lakhs.

Term of eligibility for gratuity: Earlier, it was settled law that gratuity was payable on the termination of employment, if employee serves in the establishment for at least 5 years. The new Code reduces the gratuity period from 5 years to 3 years in the case of working journalists.

The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020

Threshold limit for coverage of establishments: The Code provides the new threshold limit for various establishments for coverage. For factories increases the edge limit to 20 workers for premises where the manufacturing process is carried out using power and 40 workers for premises where it is carried out without using power. For establishments where any hazardous activity is carried out removes the edge limit as number of worker doesn’t matter for coverage.

In case of case of contract worker the Code increases the limit as the establishments or contractors employing 50 or more workers covered under this Code. The new Code also removes the threshold limit in building and other construction work.

Daily work hour: The new Code fixes the maximum eight hours per day as daily work hour limit.

Employment of women in hazardous work: The new Code provides that women will be entitled to employed in all establishments for all types of work. If they are required to do hazardous work then the employer is required to provide adequate safeguards prior to their employment.

Definition of inter-state migrant worker: The new Code defines inter-state migrant worker as a person who moves on his own to another state and obtains employment there and earning a maximum Rs. 18,000/- per month or such higher amount Centre Govt. may notify.

Advantages for inter-state migrant workers: The Code provides certain advantages for inter-state migrant workers. This includes: benefit of public distribution system either in native state or the state of employment, benefits under the building and other construction cess fund in the state of employment and insurance and provident fund available to other workers in same establishment.

The Industrial Relations Code, 2020

Applicability of standing orders: As per the Code, establishments with 300 workers must have to prepare standing orders on the matters listed in the Schedule of the Code. These matters includes the classification of workers, manner of informing workers about work hours, holidays, paydays and wage days, termination of employment and grievance redressal mechanism for workers.

Prior permission in case of closure, lay-off and retrenchment: Under the new Code, Govt. can only increase the threshold limit for permission requirements via notification. Earlier, it was mandatory to obtain prior permission of the Govt. for establishment employing 100 workers in case of closure, lay-off and retrenchment. Now, establishments having strength of atleast 300 workers are required to take prior permission of the Govt. for closure, lay-off and retrenchment.

Disputes relating to termination of individual worker: The Code classifies any dispute in reference to discharge, dismissal, retrenchment, or otherwise termination of the services of an individual worker to be an industrial dispute. The worker may apply to the Industrial Tribunal for adjudication of the same after 45 days of the application for conciliation of dispute was made.

-Kiranpreet Kaur

Associate at Aggarwals & Associates, S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali

Parliament Monsoon Session, 2020: Part-I

Parliament Monsoon Session, 2020: Part-I

This article focused on to unearth varied features of newly enacted legislations by the Parliament of India in its monsoon session. The Rajya Sabha on 20th September, 2020 passed two new farmers bills i.e. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. Both bills were introduced within the Lok Sabha on 14th September, 2020. On 22nd of September, 2020 Parliament passed The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 so as to bring amendments in The Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

Brief of the diverse provisions of those newly enacted bills is discussed below:-

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020:-

This newly enacted piece of legislation will allows the farmers to sell their produce within inter-state beyond the physical premises of APMC markets. State Govt. will be prohibited from imposing any market fee or levy outside the APMC areas. APMC stands for Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee which mainly regulated the agricultural markets in India.

Inter-state trade of farmers’ produce: The basic feature of the bill is that it allows inter-state trade of farmers’ produce outside the premises of markets established by market committees formed and notified under the state APMC Acts. Now a farmer can sell his produce in an outside trade area. Such outside area can be a farm gates, factory premises, warehouses and cold storages.

Electronic trading: An electronic trading and transaction platform may be set up to facilitate the direct and online buying and selling of such produce through electronic devices and internet. Companies, partnership firms or registered societies may establish and operate such platforms under this new bill.

Abolition of market fees: The new prohibits the State governments from imposing any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders and electronic trading platforms for trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an outside trade area.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services, Bill, 2020:

Farming agreement: The bill provides for agreement between the farmer and buyer for any farm produce. The minimum period of such agreement will be one crop season or one production cycle of livestock. The agreement can be made for maximum period of 5 years, unless the production cycle is more than 5 years.

Pricing of farming produce: The price for farming produce and the process of price determination should be mentioned in the farming agreement. Prices subjected to variation, guaranteed price for the produce and a clear reference for any additional amount above the guaranteed price must be laid out in the agreement.

Settlement of dispute: For settlement of disputes under the bill, farming agreement must provide for a conciliation board as well as conciliation process. At first, all the disputes must be referred to the board for resolution. If the board fails to settle the dispute within 30 days then the parties may approach Sub-divisional Magistrate for resolution. Parties will have a right to appeal before an Appellate Authority against the decision of Sub-divisional Magistrate. Both the Magistrate and Appellate Authority will be bound to dispose of the matter within 30 days from the receipt of application. Both authorities will have liberty to impose certain penalties on the party contravening the agreement. Howbeit, no action can be taken against the agricultural land of farmer for recovery of any dues.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020:

Regulation of food items: The new bill empowers the Central Govt. to regularize certain commodities like food items, fertilizers and petroleum products as essential commodities. The Central Govt. may regulate or prohibit the production, supply, distribution, trade and commerce of these commodities. The bill detaches the cereal, pulses, oilseed, edible oil, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. However, the Central Govt. may regulate the supply these food items in extraordinary circumstances such as war, extraordinary price rise, famine and natural calamity of grave nature.

Stock limit: According to the new amendment, stock limit on agricultural produce must be imposed consistent with price rise. A stock limit may be imposed if there is 100% increase in retail price of horticulture and 50 % increase in the retail price in case of non-perishable agriculture food items. Such increase will be calculated over the price prevailing immediately last 12 months, or the average retail price of the last 5 years, whichever is a smaller amount.

-Kiranpreet Kaur

Associate at Aggarwals & Associates, S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali