This article is written by Nidhi Rani Garg, a law graduate. This article will provide in-depth information on employee rights from various perspectives, as well as a thorough comprehension of the concept. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Table of Contents

Introduction 

Learning about employee rights in India is important as it ensures that discrimination is avoided.  In India, there are numerous provisions in employment laws that protect the interests of employees. The Indian Constitution is the foundation of individual rights and liberties, as well as the basic framework within which all Indian legislation, including labour and employment regulations, must operate. During work, all employees are entitled to certain rights and responsibilities; various employment laws of India specify that employees’ rights are equivalent to that of the employer’s, these rights protect the employees from unjust discrimination based on gender, age, ethnicity, caste, or religion. Employees have the right to privacy, fair pay, paid time off, and other benefits. Multiple provisions have been included in Indian employment laws to protect the interests of employees. 

Definition of employee rights

Employee rights refers to a variety of measures that safeguard employees in the workplace. Employee rights vary depending on the company and the industry in which it operates. However, every employee, in any company, is entitled to certain benefits. At the workplace, all employees have basic rights such as the right to eat, the right to be safe, the right to be paid for the work they do, the right to join trade unions, and the right to gather – including the right to privacy, fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination, and the right to seek access to justice. 

To avoid a breach of these rights and obligations, it’s essential to understand what they are. Employers and employees have reciprocal obligations to one another, which are spelled out in their employment contracts.Every employee is entitled to more than just a safe workplace; there are legal obligations for a proper work schedule, minimum compensation, and other things. Employees’ employment in the organised private sector is governed by various laws, such as the Equal Remuneration Act, Payment of Gratuity Act, Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, Employees’ State Insurance Act, Maternity Benefit Act, and so on.

Important employee rights 

Following are some key rights that employees have.  

Employment agreement

All employees are entitled to an employment agreement under the employment laws that specify the date on which they should begin working for the company. An employment agreement is a written document that outlines the terms and conditions of employment, as well as the employer and employee’s rights and responsibilities. Before starting work, every employee is entitled to a written employment agreement signed by the employer. A well-written agreement drafted by a labour lawyer can avoid any unanticipated conflict between the employer and the employee, as the legal process to be followed to resolve any issue is already established in the employee’s agreement.

Salary and bonus on a regular basis 

According to the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, equal compensation for equal work must be paid regardless of gender. An employee’s salary must be paid on time, according to the Payment of Wages Act of 1936. If payment is not made, the employee can file a civil complaint or contact the Labour Commissioner. Any factory or company that is five years old and employs 20 or more people in any accounting year is legally required to pay a bonus to its employees, according to the Payment of Bonus Act of 1965.

Right to health and safety 

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According to the Factories Act of 1948, all employees, regardless of the type of work they do, are entitled to basic health and safety rights at work as part of a sound and viable working environment. The employer is in charge of providing basic amenities to his employees. Proper safety measures must be followed in workplaces such as construction or mining sites, dangerous equipment must be operated under expert supervision, and no minors under the age of 14 should be allowed to work.

If an employee is injured as a result of the employer’s failure to provide a safe and healthy working environment, the employer may be liable for compensation under the Employees Compensation Act of 1923.

Minimum wages

According to the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, every employee is entitled to a minimum payment that is sufficient to support his or her lifestyle while also providing the necessities. Wages that are less than the minimum wage are a clear violation of Article 23 of the Constitution. If an employee is forced to labour for less than the minimum wage, the employer faces legal implications.

Leaves and vacation time

An employee is entitled to leave and vacation time during their work. In general, an employee in India can take the following types of leaves:

Casual leaves

These leaves are set aside in case of unforeseen circumstances or incidents that require an employee’s immediate attention. A corporation usually allows up to three days of unpaid leave every month.

Privilege leaves

These leaves are left over from past years and used by the employee in the current or future years. The duration of privilege leaves can be extended for up to three years. If an employee has exhausted all of his sick days, these can be utilised instead. If an employee has balance privilege leaves remaining when they leave their work, they can be cashed.

Paid leaves

Paid leave is available to employees on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. For paid leaves taken, the company cannot deduct the employee’s salary.

Leave without pay

If an employee’s leave balance is depleted, he may take a day off, but his income for that day will be removed from his monthly salary. At the discretion of the management authorities, the employee may be awarded paid leave.

Sick leave

An employee is entitled to a set amount of sick days, which can be used if they become ill.

Compensatory leave

If the employee works on official off days, he or she can take these leaves.

Maternity leave

A female employee is entitled to 26 weeks of maternity/pregnancy leave, which she can use throughout her pregnancy and/or after birth. In India, the Maternity Benefit Act of 2017 protects the interests of employers who employ pregnant or lactating women. Maternity leave can also be taken in the event of pregnancy difficulties, such as early birth, miscarriage, or medical termination. In India, several private companies offer paternity leave to male employees, allowing them to care for their newborn kid(s). The Rajya Sabha first enacted the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 in August 2016, and the Lok Sabha followed suit in March 2017.

Paternity leave

Following the passage of the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act in 2017, a new bill known as the Paternity Benefit Bill was submitted. According to the new bill, all employees, both in the public and commercial sectors, should be entitled to fifteen days of paternity leave, which can be extended up to three months. The Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017, has been introduced in parliament with the goal of providing equal paternity and maternity leave to natural and adoptive fathers, as well as people acting in loco parentis.

Gratuity

Gratuity is defined by the Payment of Gratuity Act of 1972 as a retirement fund paid to an employee upon retirement, termination, resignation, or death. It is given to employees who have worked for at least five years in a row. If the company refuses to pay the gratuity, the employee might seek legal advice from an employment lawyer.

Provident fund 

Employees have the option of keeping a portion of their pay invested in EPF, which is sent directly by the employer into PF accounts under the Employees’ Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. The Employees Provident Fund Organization keeps track of employer and employee contributions (EPFO).

Notice period

If an employer chooses to terminate an employee’s employment, the employee must be given notice so that they can prepare for the termination. An employer is not allowed to fire an employee without providing them notice. If an employee is fired without cause and notice, the employee can speak with a labour lawyer about filing a wrongful termination of employment complaint against the employer.

Protection from sexual harassment

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013 protects women in the workplace from sexual harassment. If a business has 10 or more employees, the Act mandates the formation of an Internal Complaints Committee to handle sexual harassment complaints. This committee must be formed at all branches and units of an organization, and it should include the following members:

  1. A woman who works as a Presiding Officer at the highest level.
  2. There should be no more than two other employees with appropriate legal and/or social expertise for the cause of women’s protection.
  3. A member of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) dedicated to women’s rights or knowledgeable about sexual harassment issues.

The ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013’ contains a list of offences, which includes:

  1. Advancement and physical interaction
  2. A solicitation or demand for sexual favours
  3. Making sexually charged remarks without being asked
  4. Using coercion to show pornography
  5. Any other sexually inappropriate physical, verbal, or nonverbal conduct.

If person accused of sexual harassment is convicted, he faces up to three years in prison, with or without a fine, under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. 

In Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court held that- 

Workplace sexual harassment is an obvious infringement of gender equality, which in turn violates the female class’s fundamental rights. Such harassment also violates Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. The recommendations provide a framework for workplace etiquette, with a focus on sexual harassment prevention. The Vishaka Judgement principles have grown prevalent in the workplace due to the efforts of women’s organisations. Sexual harassment, according to the Supreme Court, violates a working woman’s fundamental rights. The Vishaka Judgment established advancements of rules, including:

  1. ‘Preventing sexual harassment is the responsibility of businesses.’
  2. Organizations must establish a female-led sexual harassment oversight committee.
  3. Victims must be protected, and organisations must take disciplinary action against offenders.
  4. The rights of women workers must be made known.

Right of government employees

When it comes to jobs, people are more interested in the government sector. The following are some of the different benefits of working for the government:

  1. Fundamental rights: Working for the government particularly protects the many essential rights guaranteed in Part 3 of the Indian Constitution from the State.
  2. Salary: Although the monthly income may not be surprising, it is dependent on the position. However, supplementary allowances, bonuses, quarterly or variable allowances, and other benefits that government employees in India are entitled to add up to a substantial sum.
  3. Trade unions: Unions exist in a variety of professions to advocate for the protection of rights of those employed in that field. This offers voice to those who are victims of exploitation.
  4. Reservations: There are regulations in place that reserve seats for specific social groups, which are covered by employee rights. In the government sector, benefits are available.
  5. Job stability: In the public sector, you cannot be fired as casually as you may be in the private sector. The rights of government workers in India functioning in the government sector include an in-depth explanation by authorities outlining the employee’s misconduct in order to be suspended from duty.
  6. Working hours: While private-sector workers complain about the never-ending workday, government workers are usually quite rigid about working hours. They are also compensated individually for their overtime.

Importance of employee rights

Employees are the backbone of any company. Employees are considered to make or break enterprises. An employee, according to the basic textbook definition, is someone who has accepted to be engaged under a contract of service to work for a fee.

Employees, on the other hand, play a far more vital role within the organisation by developing a strong and deep relationship with their employers. Employees are required to create, administrate, organise, publicize, sell, transport, maintain, and repair when employers start a business (or develop a branch of an existing business). As a result, employees are the ones that run the business.

The wisest career move one will ever make is to educate oneself before, during, and after a job experience. This will benefit both management and employees because it will assist employees to understand their rights and offer them a more accurate picture of their options. When management informs employees of these rights, they must establish an environment in which those rights are respected. As a result, both sides recognize each other’s rights and responsibilities, which has a significant impact on the organization’s productivity.

India’s legal framework governing employment

The Indian Constitution is the supreme legislation guiding the people’s rights and behavior. It primarily protects individuals and acts as the foundation upon which all Indian legislation, including employment-related laws, is formed. The Concurrent List in the Constitution lists labour and employment legislation, indicating that the Union Parliament and state legislatures have equal authority to create laws relating to all labour and employment problems in India. The Indian Constitution has given workers numerous rights to protect them. These rights are protected by the articles below- 

Article 14 of Indian Constitution

The principle of equality before the law is defined in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Equal does not imply total equality between humans, which is physically impossible to accomplish. It is a concept that implies the absence of any special privileges in favour of any individual due to birth, creed, or other factors, as well as the equality of all individuals and classes under the law of the state. The Supreme Court concluded in Randhir Singh v. Union of India, 1982 that, while the notion of “equal pay for equal work” is not officially recognised a basic right by our Constitution, it is unquestionably a constitutional goal under Articles 14, 16, and 39 (c) of the Constitution. As a result, in circumstances of unequal pay scales based on unreasonable categorisation, this entitlement can be enforced. 

Article 19(1)(g) of Indian Constitution

The ability of citizens to form groups and unions is discussed in this Article. However, in the interests of public order, morality, or India’s sovereignty and integrity, the State may put reasonable restrictions on this right through legislation. The right to create an association includes the right to form or not to form, and to join or not to join.

Article 21 of Indian Constitution

The scope of Article 21‘s right to life is vast. The right to livelihood is an equally vital aspect of that right because no one can exist without the means of life. If the right to livelihood is not considered a part of the constitutional right to life, the simplest method to deprive someone of their right to life is to take away their means of survival. So, if an employee does not receive his rights, it is a violation of his right to life.

Article 39(a) and 41 of Indian Constitution

Articles 39(a) and 41 provide equally important principles for understanding and interpreting the meaning and content of basic rights. It would be simple pedantry to omit the right to livelihood from the content of the right to life if the state has an obligation to provide persons with an appropriate means of living and the right to employment.

 The laws enacted for employment purposes are listed below:

  • The Factories Act, 1948

A considerable percentage of the country’s population works in manufacturing. In light of this, the Factories Act was enacted to control the working conditions of industrial workers in places where manufacturing operations are commonly performed. The Factories Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation that addresses factory workers’ health, safety, and welfare.

Industrial Dispute Act, 1947

The Industrial Dispute Act only applies to workers. It covers industrial disputes, industrial activities such as lockouts and strikes, layoffs, retrenchment, and undertaking transfers, as well as changes in workmen’s service conditions and workplace.

Payment of Wages Act, 1936

The Payment of Wages Act, 1936 (the Salary Act) governs the manner of paying wages to employees whose monthly wages do not exceed Rs. 24,000 and factory and industrial workers. The Wages Act advocates non-deduction of wages of any kind, save for some mandatory deductions like income tax, fines, and deductions due to absence from duty.

Minimum Wages Act, 1948

Each employee in India is entitled to a minimum pay under the Minimum Wages Act, which allows them to maintain their standard of living and access required services.

Article 23 of the Indian Constitution prohibits anyone from earning less than the minimum wage. Forced labour occurs when someone is forced to work for less than the minimum wage, which is prohibited by the same Article. The minimum wage is set by both the Central and state governments based on the following criteria:

  1. Region
  2. Living costs
  3. Work type
  4. Working times
  5. How much may the employer pay?

Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 

One of the most important pieces of legislation dealing with employees’ social security is the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (EPF Act). According to the EPF Act, both the employer and the employee must contribute a minimum of 12% of the employee’s ‘basic salary’ to the EPF fund. Furthermore, the employer’s payment is allocated towards the employee’s pension fund, and the employee is entitled to a monthly pension upon retirement.

Shops and Commercial Establishments Act,1961 (S&E Act)

The S&E Act is a state-specific law, and practically every state has enacted one. The S&E Act oversees and governs the working conditions and practices of employees in shops and commercial enterprises, which comprises the majority of private businesses. Working hours, wage payment, leaves and holidays, overtime, and other issues are all covered under the S&E Act.

Contract Labour (Regulation and abolition) Act, 1970 (CLRA)

The CLRA governs contract labour in enterprises and permits its elimination in certain circumstances. A ‘workman’ is termed ‘contract labour’ if he is hired in connection with an enterprise’s work by or through a ‘contractor,’ with or without the knowledge of the ‘primary employer.’ Every contractor must be licenced under the CLRA Act and must only use contract labour in accordance with his or her licence. The contractor must provide restrooms, canteens, nutritious drinking water, bathrooms, washing facilities, and first-aid facilities. It’s worth noting that, under the CLRA, the principal employer is liable if the contractor fails to pay contract labour wages.

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013

The provisions of this legislation, as well as the Indian Penal Code, protect women at work against sexual harassment. An internal complaint system for sexual harassment must be maintained by the organization.

The fundamental goal of the committee is to respect the law, and it takes fast action whenever an employee files a complaint. In general, the committee consists of a senior woman and other employees. They adhere to all rules, regulations, and policies in order to safeguard female employees from sexual harassment at work.

The Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act, 2017

On April 1, 2017, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act of 2017 (which revised the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961) went into effect. The following are significant changes:

  1. Increased paid maternity leave for women employees from 12 to 26 weeks for the first two children;
  2. recognition of the rights of an adopting mother and a commissioning mother (using a surrogate to bear a child) to claim paid maternity leave of 12 weeks;
  3. a “work from home” option after maternity leave expires;
  4. mandatory crèche (daycare) facilities for every establishment employing 50 or more employees, employers must also inform their employees about these perks.

Payment of Bonus Act, 1965

Any factory or organisation that is at least 5 years old and employs 20 or more employees in any accounting year is legally required to pay a bonus to its employees, according to the Payment of Bonus Act of 1965. Even if the number of employees starts falling below 20, the incentive will be paid. Employees earning less than Rs. 21,000 per month and working for more than 30 days in any accounting year are entitled to a bonus.

An employee can earn a bonus in one of two ways:

  1. That year, the business was profitable.
  2. The employee and the company have agreed that the employee will be paid a bonus based on his or her productivity.

In recent years, the government has made several further efforts to address issues such as employer-employee relations and encouraging a safer workplace and work practices for women and people with disabilities. The Right of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016, and the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Act of 2018 are some other laws.

Supreme Court on employee rights

  • In the matter of Officer in Charge, Sub Regional Provident Fund Office and Others v. M/s Godavari Garments Limited, the Supreme Court of India considered whether the term of employee is broad enough to include anyone who is directly or indirectly involved in the operations of an organisation. The Supreme Court’s division bench, addressing through Justice Indu Malhotra, stated that the EPF Act’s definition of an employee was broad enough to include everyone involved in the establishment’s activities, either directly or indirectly.
  • The Supreme Court also cited its decision in Silver Jubilee Tailoring House and Others v. Chief Inspector of Shops and Establishments, saying that the element of control and supervision was present when the employer had the right to reject the end product if it did not conform to the employer’s instructions and direct the worker to rework it.
  • Employee rights can only be determined if a person is identified as an ‘employee’. As a result, the Supreme Court’s discussions are crucial in determining who qualifies as an ‘employee’.
  1. According to the Factories Act of 1948, every employee has the right to a healthy and safe working environment.
  2. According to the Employees Compensation Act, 1923, if the employer fails to provide safe working circumstances as a result of which the employee is affected, the employer must compensate the employee in full.
  3. An employer has the authority to terminate an employee’s employment with or without cause if the employee’s work is unsatisfactory or unsuitable for the position. In this case, the employee has the right to request a review as well as written reasons for termination.
  4. The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 mandates that employees be paid equally regardless of their physical strength.
  5. An employee’s entitlement to an employment agreement in India is to get one that clearly defines the employee’s title, compensation, working hours, job description, terms of resignation, and/or any other relevant data throughout the duration of employment. An employee has the right to know the specific terms of their employment.
  6. Article 16(2) of the Indian Constitution ensures the right to work without discrimination. It states that no citizen may be discriminated against on the basis of religion, sex, caste, creed, gender, place of birth, descent, employment, or any other factor.

Conclusion

An employee’s legal rights have been thoroughly outlined above. Every employee has some basic rights and responsibilities in their work. Knowing these employees’ rights can help to establish a warm and comfortable work environment. Multiple provisions have been included in Indian employment laws to protect the interests of employees, some of which are the right to privacy, fair compensation, paid time off, financial benefits and other rights.

Frequently asked questions-

What are the basic employees’ rights in India?

Employees are those who are hired or engaged by another person or organisation to do a certain task. They have a number of important rights, including a regular pay, the right to health and safety, specific leaves, maternity benefits, a provident fund, and protection from sexual harassment, among others.

What actions can be taken against an employer who fails to pay their employees on time?

The Payment of Wages Act of 1936 mandates that an employee’s salary be paid promptly. Employees can submit a legal complaint or contact the Labour Commissioner if payment is not made. The Payment of Bonus Act of 1965 mandates that any business or corporation that is five years old and employs 20 or more people in any accounting year pay a bonus to its workers.

What are maternity leave rights in India?

The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which provides prenatal and postnatal benefits to female employees in India, entitles women to leave. During pregnancy, female employee is entitled to leave for 26 weeks. Women employees, in particular, are entitled to an eight-week post natal paid maternity leave. As a result, no pregnant female employee can be fired or discharged during her pregnancy; nevertheless, if she is fired for that reason, she is entitled to maternity benefits.

Which law provides protection against sexual harassment for employees?

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013 ensures this protection. If a business has 10 or more employees, the Act mandates the formation of an Internal Complaints Committee to handle sexual harassment complaints. Sexual harassment is punishable by up to three years in prison, with or without a fine, under the Indian Penal Code.

Which laws govern the protection of private sector employees’ rights in India?

Employees in the private sector are protected by laws such as the Indian Contract Act, Indian Penal Code, Labour Legislation, and other laws mentioned above.

Is taking leaves a right of employee in India? 

Annual leave, Maternity and Paternity Leaves, and Sick Leaves are all distinct types of leave policies that different firms have for their employees. Employees in India have rights to several types of leaves under Indian law, and most companies have a detailed leave policy and calculation mechanism in place.

References:


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