The IT industry has brought about revolutionary change in the Indian economy. All the state governments in the country welcomed the change. Vast funds have been invested in the IT sector that has created numerous employment opportunities. The IT industry enjoys several concessions in FSI, electricity, taxes etc. but the employee who is the most vital element in the system has remained neglected. The IT industry also introduced several changes in HR policies. The duty hours of other countries were followed. The companies adopted the policy of restricting employment to staff from other companies. Since opportunities were abundant, the employees started switching to new jobs frequently for the slightest additional benefits and incentives. To check this tendency, some companies ask employees to deposit their original passports and certificates.
The IT companies in urban areas come under the Shops & Establishments Act. The question raised in this regard is whether the Factories Act applies to the IT sector. This issue is pending in the Supreme Court. However, an IT professional cannot be considered as a ‘workman’. This question is also pending in the Supreme Court. The IT professionals have an aversion towards labour unions, since they have a false notion that labour unions are concerned with manufacturing units. Several entrepreneurs in the field believe that the Trade Union laws do not apply to the IT field. In recent times there has been an attempt to establish a union and it is getting a positive response.
The murder of one employee is not just one incidence that draws our attention but the fact is that issues related to IT employees have always been neglected. A majority of employees are women who work in unsafe conditions. Many companies compel employees to resign so that they do not have to be given the benefits of gratuity, which is mandatorily payable after completion of 5 years of service. How many clauses in the appointment letters of the employees are legal and enforceable is a matter of investigation. The companies retain the right to dismiss employees any time but they point out clauses in the appointment letters when employees wish to change jobs for better prospects. Young people keep changing jobs when they get better offers. This fluctuation and unstable nature of the jobs has direct impact on the social aspect of their lives. To what extent is the social impact serious? The seriousness of the social impact is evident in the stressful life conditions and increasing number of divorces. Although some companies have taken positive steps to handle all these problems, the fact remains that IT employees have no support of law. Workers in the manufacturing companies do have the protection of Industrial Dispute Act and other related laws. However, their counterparts in the IT sector have no protective laws.
The company authorities are responsible for the safety and security of their employees as per the Factories Act. The incidence of molestation of a young woman in the pick-up vehicle in Bengaluru and her murder some years back is shocking.
As per the Shop Act in Karnataka state a case was files against the director of the company. Both the High court and the Supreme Court refused to withdraw the case against the director.
All the states have formulated some rules and regulations regarding women employees in the Shop Act. These rules and regulations are inadequate and are not followed strictly. The reason is that the IT sector enjoys a special and VIP status. There have been cases of rape and murder in cities like Pune, Bangalore, New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.
The Supreme Court has also agreed that there is a need for amendment in related laws, particularly for women employees. The laws are not confined to women in the IT sector but extend to women working in malls, 5 star hotels and other similar jobs. The fact remains that an IT employee has no legal provisions regarding safety and security. The police have issued circulars in the past urging IT Companies to implement specific safety measures for women. The IT sector has never received legal support like the manufacturing sector post-independence. There is an urgent need to frame laws related at least to the basic minimum working conditions for women. At the same time, it is necessary to take precautions that women do not take disadvantage of the laws.
Unless the company directors are held responsible, the safety of women employees cannot be achieved in a country like India. This, I believe is a matter of prime concern.