Monday, February 25, 2008

Safety Measures for Women Employees Working in Night Shifts

Several attacks on women employees in recent times, especially in cities, have raised concerns about safety of Women Employees Working in Night Shifts. Now, cases against the Company heads are trialed in the Court. Denying work in night shift for women amount to depriving them chances of equal opportunity. It was discrimination on the basis of sex and gender and therefore unconstitutional. Then, what are all the statutory provisions available in our Country for the Women Employees Working in Night Shifts safely? How to protect them from such attacks? How to keep ourselves away from the clutches of the laws of the Country? The following throws some light on the burning issue.

Protection under the Factories Act, 1948:

The Factories Act, 1948 bans the employment of women beyond sunset, under Section 66, it says that "No woman shall be required or allowed to work in any factory except between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m." However, state governments could make rules providing for exemption to women in fish curing and fish canning industries where workers were needed at night to prevent damage to raw material. This exemption had inbuilt safeguards: it would be reviewed every three years and hours for women extended only up to 9 p.m.

Labour laws concerning night shifts have been reviewed from time to time. The report of the National Commission on Labour 2002 said, "On the question of night work for women, there need not be any restriction if the number of women workers in a shift in an establishment is not less than five and if the management is able to provide satisfactory arrangements for their transport, safety and rest after or before shift hours."

The Government of Tamil Nadu exempted the Software Industries in the State from the Chapter II of the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947. Essentially, it meant the rule on opening and closing hours of the shop did not apply to software outfits. They had to maintain a record showing hours of work, including overtime work. A visitor book should be maintained and produced for an authorised inspector to record his remarks about defects noticed by him.

The removal of prohibition of Women Employees Working in Night Shifts came with guidelines:

Women employees should be protected from sexual harassment and provided with appropriate working conditions in respect of work, leisure, health and hygiene. The employer shall provide proper lighting in and around the factory where the female workers may move, security at entry and exit points, all-female transportation facility where it is provided, separate canteen facility, at least 12 consecutive hours of rest or gap between shifts, two female wardens and a fortnightly report to the Inspector of Factories about the details of female night shift employees.

Section 25 of the Karnataka State Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1961 prohibits employment of women and young persons at night.

However, the Karnataka government issued a notification exempting Information Technology and Information Technology enabled Services (IT-ITeS) establishments from the this section subject to the condition that the establishment provides transportation and security to women employees and subject to any other condition as may be specified in the notification.

Suggested Protection that should be extended is:

Send security guard in the Company transport while odd hours for pick/drop from/to the nearest of the women eployee's home.
Allow group of women employees to work in night shift instead of employing single women employee.
Provide atleast one male staff on cab during odd hours shift and he should take last Pick/Drop for female's safety.
Provide corporate mobile connection to all girls and tell them to inform, in case, they face any problem.
Hire employees from nearby area so that commuting during odd hours should be less and it will be safe.

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