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Draft rules under OSH Code notified for comments and suggestions within 45 days

The labour ministry has notified the draft Rules under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) Code, 2020 on 19th Nov.2020 inviting objections and suggestions, if any, from the stakeholders. The feedback can be provided within 45 days starting Thursday (November 19). Thereafter, the ministry would finalise the rules to implement the OSH Code.

According to the statement, the objections and suggestions are required to be submitted within 45 days from the date of notification of the draft rules.

The draft rules provide for operationalisation of provisions in the Code related to safety, health and working conditions of the dock workers, building or other construction workers, and mines workers, among others.

The draft rules provide for appointment letter in prescribed format including designation, category of skill, wages, avenue for achieving higher wages or higher position to every employee of an establishment within three months of coming into force of the rules.

According to the draft rules, no employee shall be employed in any establishment unless he has been issued a letter of appointment.

The draft rules also propose raising ‘spread over time’ for a worker to 12 hours a day from the current limit of 10-and-half hours. ‘Spread over time’  refers to working hours plus the time for lunch and other breaks.

No worker shall be required, or allowed, to work in an establishment for more than 48 hours in a week, the draft rules state. The period of work  shall be so arranged that, inclusive of  the intervals for rest, it shall not spread over for more than 12  hours in a day.

Rules  further stipulate that no worker will work for more than five hours without an interval for rest of at least half-an-hour. Subject to these conditions the working hours may be modified so that the total number of working hours in a week shall be so fixed and followed, the rules said.

This has drawn flak from many corners because the OSH Code passed by Parliament provides for maximum eight working hours in a day.

“This has been done keeping in mind the extreme climatic conditions across the country where work scheduled is spread through the day. Besides this will allow workers to earn more through overtime allowance,” a senior labour ministry official told PTI.

The official further said, “We have made necessary provision in the draft rules so that all workers working beyond eight hours get overtime.”

As per draft rules on OSH Code, in calculating overtime on any day, a fraction of an hour between 15-30 minutes shall be counted as 30 minutes.

At present, less than 30 minutes is not counted as overtime in the existing legal framework.

It also made provision for annual health examination to be conducted by the employer free of cost for every worker of factory, dock, mine and building or other construction work, who has completed 45 years of age.

Provision has also been made in the rules for journey allowance once a year.

It also provides for single electronic registration, licence and annual integrated return for an establishment.

An all-India single licence for contractor supplying or engaging contract labour in more than one state for five years has been provided as against work order-based licensing at present.

Prohibition of employment of contract labour for core activity of an establishment and classification of core and non-core activities, are also provided in the OSH Code.

Rules regarding payment of wages to contact labourers provide that the contractor shall fix the wage periods and no wage period shall exceed one month.

Besides, the wages of every person employed as contract labour in an establishment or by the contactor shall be paid before the expiry of seventh day after the last day of the wage period.

It also provides the wages shall be disbursed through bank transfer or electronic mode only.

Under the rules, safety committees have been made mandatory for every establishment employing 500 or more workers to provide an opportunity for the workers to represent their concern on occupational safety and health matters.

Rules have been provided for composition and functions of safety committees.

The rules has been made regarding conditions related to safety of women employment in all establishment for all type of work before 6 am and beyond 7 pm with their consent.

It provides that for calculating overtime on any day, a fraction of an hour between 15 to 30 minutes shall be counted as 30 minutes. Currently, less than 30 minutes is counted as no overtime.

The draft rules are, however, silent on the promised database of inter-state migrants and on why healthcare checkup provisions are restricted to workers above 45 years, among others.

Labour economists are of the view that some provisions are discriminatory, as the draft rules exclude those working in companies with less than 500 workers and, therefore, their safety will be ignored.