There is a major paradigm shift in the policies of Corporates to not just hire women in the managerial positions in the Companies but also to work on the shop-floors of the factories and carry out the work that would normally be carried out by the men.
As per Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, industrial units were not allowed to employ women from 7 pm to 6am i.e. the night shifts. Madras High Court ruled that Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act 1948 was (a) violation of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to equality enjoyed by women (ii) was discriminatory to women on sole ground of sex and (iii) interfered with the fundamental right of petitioners to carry out their fundamental right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. Keeping in mind the various arguments against the lifting of ban on nightshifts for women employees, Madras High Court made several provisions for safety and security of women and preservation of their dignity and honour before declaring Section 66(1)(b) of The Factories Act 1948 unconstitutional. The measures given by Madras High Court state that before the Central and State Government introduce rules following measures should be adopted by every employer who wants to employ women in their factory in nightshifts:-
- Employers should prevent and deter any sexual harassment and provide procedures to resolve, settle or prosecute any such act;
- The employers should maintain a complaint mechanism, including a complaint committee headed by women and half the members of the committee should be women;
- Women should be employed only in batches, of not less than ten or not less than two thirds of the total nightshifts’ strength;
- Separate work sheds, canteen facilities, all women transport facility, additional paid holiday for menstruation period, medical facilities should also be provided besides two or more women wardens to work as special welfare assistants;
- The employer shall provide proper working conditions with respect to work, leisure, health and hygiene and there should be proper lighting in and around the factory where female workers may move.
- There should be security at entry and exit points of factory and at least twelve consecutive hours of rest or gap between shifts;
- The employers should send fortnightly reports to the inspector of factories about night shifts including any unwanted incident and also to the local police station
The Maharashtra Government has taken the initiative in allowing women to work night shifts with a condition that the Company shall provide adequate security to the women and ensure that transportation is provided to the women. However, the amendment to the Factories Act is yet to be tabled in the Vidhan Sabha by the Maharashtra Government.
This has not stopped various companies to seek special permissions from their respective State Governments from hiring a significant number of labour force comprising of women after satisfying the Governments of the preventive measure taken to ensure safety & security of the women workers. The move by the Companies to hire women is to promote diversity into their organizations and include manufacturing as well in the process.
Allowing Women to work night shifts has its pros & cons, as under:-
|1||Will promote women to work and earn a livelihood||1||Rise is Sexual Harassment Cases|
|2||Will help generate more employment||2||Companies will be required to have women staff to monitor the women labour|
|3||Promote diversity & equality among the workers|
|4||Open the doors to women to various industries|
|5||Women will be able to contribute in developing their skills|