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This article is written by Ronika Tater, a student of University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, School of Law. In this article, she discusses the concept of labour law, labour jurisprudence in India, international perspective and also how it has emerged, requirements, sources, and time to excel in the field of labour law.


Labour is a subject mentioned in the concurrent list under the Constitution of India where both the central and the state governments are involved to provide the legislations for the labour. Labour laws are dealing with employment laws in any organization such as manufacturing organization or trading organization or establishments or industries. It provides the rights and obligation to the employees, employers, and trade unions, thereby providing restriction and maintaining any conflict of interest through the right forum.

The recent establishment of the four codes by the central government has streamlined the earlier laws into uniform and simplified them to avoid any conflict of interest. It has been made in compliance with international standards and rules. The Ministry of Labour and Employment facilitates to protect and safeguard the interest of workers and those who are deprived, financially not capable and disadvantage sections of society by creating a healthy work environment for efficient production and productivity, developing skills through coordinating vocational skill training, and employment services. The main aim of the government is to promote welfare activities and provide social security to the labour force both in the organised sector and unorganised sector. These objectives can be achieved through the enactment and implementation of various labour laws considering the economic and the terms and conditions of service and employment of workers.

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A brief concept of labour laws

Labour law comprises industrial relations, trade unions, and industrial jurisprudence. It is a relationship between employer and employee concerning labour, any kind of work for a wage. It also addresses the various administrative rulings and procedures to be complied with and addresses the legal rights, and restrictions on working people and the organization. Moreover, labour law defines the rights and obligations of employees, union members, and employers in the workplace. The Ministry of Labour and Employment provides the thrust area concerning the labour laws as below-mentioned:

  • Labour policy and legislation
  • safety, health, the well-being of labour
  • Social security of labour
  • Equal pay by removing gender inequality
  • Policy relating to the deprived group such as women and child labour
  • Implementing the fast dispute forum
  • Labour and employment statistics
  • Emigration of labour for employment abroad
  • Regular check on employment services and vocational skill training
  • Administrative of central labour and employment services
  • International cooperation in labour and employment matters by following uniform and standard rules

Evolution of labour law in India

The following provides the events and the year of labour jurisprudence in India:

  1. Pre-1920s
  • During this time a gradual shift of labour from rural areas to cities has been noted.
  • The first act was established, Workmen Breach of Contract Act, 1859, which imposed fine on workmen or bound the workmen to work.
  • The Factories Act, 1881 was established which prohibited the employment of below seven-year children in the factories, conditions for employment of women were mentioned and it was applicable only where 100 employees or more are working.

2. Post World War and the 1920s

3. The 1930s

  • This was the time of world economic depression which led to a rise in employment and prices.
  • A Royal Commission on labour in India was formed which was boycotted by Unions.
  • Introduction to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1938.

4. World war II and Pre-Independence

  • The five-year plan of development was passed for social securities to workers.
  • Laws regulating the trade unions and industrial disputes remained fixed on the model
  • Strikes were legalized in a regulated manner.

5. Post-1990s: The struggle for liberalization

  • This was the time for a new industrial policy as the economy was opened to the world for growth and development in the country.
  • Winding back the public sector and most of the public policy was changed.
  • Establishment of small scale industries and government supported by providing loans.

6. Presently, the four codes have been passed and the purpose is to support small business and industrial development and for a universal application.

International Labour Organization

  1. The organisation aims to provide social justice, equal opportunity to everyone.
  2. To set and promote labour standards, develop policies, fundamental principles, and devise programmes for facilitating decent work for all workers i.e., women and men.
  3. Equal remuneration for work of equal value and freedom of association, the importance of vocational and technical education.
  4. Create greater opportunities for women and men to decent employment and income.
  5. Enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social security for all.
  6. Strengthen tripartism; employer, employees, trade unions, and social dialogue.

Importance of labour laws on India

The object of all the labour legislation is to ensure fair wages and to prevent disputes so that production is not adversely affected and also to maintain industrial peace. The legislation is trying to make a uniform and standard labour legislation in India, to avoid any time-consuming or conflict of interest while interpreting the definition clause. The government introduced the codes aiming to make and simplify the country’s existing and overlapping labour laws. As the subject of labour is included under the Concurrent List of the Constitution. The various code is below-mentioned:

  1. Industrial Relations Code, 2020 – The Central Government amends the existing labour law the following acts: The Trade Union Act, 1926; The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946; The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Under new legislation enacted as the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 (Code) which seeks to benefit both employees and their workers. It was passed to make provision for the investigation and settlement of Industrial Disputes. It streamlines the dispute mechanism, protects fixed-term workers, requires all large industrial establishments to implement standing orders and create a re-skilling fund for retrenched workers, and enhances penalties to deter non-compliance.
  2. The Code on Wages, 2019– this code integrates the four labour regulations i.e., the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. This code has extended the definition of employer and employee in a board based applicability of the regulations and now applies in both organised and unorganised sectors. This code is intended to provide a uniform definition of wages across all legislations and to minimise litigation. The definition was ‘wages’ includes three parts to it with an inclusion part, specified exclusions, and conditions that limit the quantum of exclusion. It also includes basic pay, dearness allowance, and keeping allowance. However, it especially excludes components such as statutory bonus, the value of house accommodation, and utilities.
  3. The Code on Social Security, 2020– This code integrates nine previous regulations relating to social security and for the first time included social security benefits such as maternity leave, disability insurance, gratuity, health insurance, and retirement protection to workers and even to the unorganized sector in the country. It also includes gig workers, platform workers, contract workers, freelancers, and home-based workers. Thereby, extending the benefits to fixed-term employees with no pre-conditions on minimum service as prescribed in earlier legislation. The Central and the State government can also contribute to the scheme for social security.
  4. The Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Condition Code, 2020– This code integrates thirteen labour laws relating to the safety, health, and working conditions of workers employed in establishments. It proposes to widen its applicability to different varieties of workers including inter-state migrants, sales promotion employees, and audio-visual workers. Further letting women workers work during the night shift with consent, thereby an attempt to promote gender equality in society.

Changes between the earlier labour laws and the present codes

The following provides a distinction between the earlier labour laws and the present codes:

  1. Earlier firms with up to a hundred workers didn’t require any permission for firing the workers. In the present code, the limit has been extended to three hundred workers without the government permission to fire.
  2. Earlier two weeks’ strike notice was mandatory to be submitted, however, its 60 days notice as per Section 4 of the Industrial Relation Code.
  3. One of the essential benefits of these codes is the inclusion of the unorganized sector, which was not able to avail the social security benefits.
  4. Earlier the work hours for workers were nine hours a day, however, now it has exceeded twelve hours a day.
  5. Previously, there was no provision for minimum wages for the workers, while in the code on wages, the central government has been authorized to determine the minimum wages.

Where to learn labour laws 

The sources from where labour law can be learnt are as follows:

  1. Rules and regulations issued by the administrative agencies.
  2. Enrolling oneself in various online platforms which provides a valid range of courses not limited to but consisting of various interrelated courses such as Coursera, Lawsikho and Lawoctopus.
  3. Through blogs, articles, and the recent publication of papers.
  4. Referring to videos from Youtube.
  5. Referring to primary sources like books, articles, etc.

Important tips to excel in labour laws

If one desires to excel in the area of labour laws there are ample opportunities open to them as employers are required to deal with the employees related to job security, practices, health, retirement, and education plan and also there are various compliances required in the form of filing returns, making payments, maintaining records and registration, etc. the following are the important tips to excel in labour laws:

  • Recent judicial cases and precedents.
  • Stay updated through the news with the notification passed by the parliament.
  • Regular check on the updates by the Ministry of Labour and Employment by visiting the website from

The time involved in the process

Following the particular course and period to excel oneself in labour laws:

  • Coursera provides a four-module course on International Labour law for a while for approx 15 hours in total. This course provides international labour law and human rights at work in a clear, convenient and accessible way.
  • Lawsikho provides a diploma in Labour, Employment and Industrial laws for HR Managers for six months.


The four labour codes aimed to streamline and simplify existing laws by uniform and standard codes and this has been appreciated by industry as an incentive for employment generation. However, many experts and labour union bodies across the country claim that the labour codes to be highly anti-worker and not in favour of the employer. For example, the labour codes provide for size-based applicability to industrial establishments and as a result, industrial units employing a lesser number of workers do not fall under the purview of these codes, however, the government points that raising the threshold for the government approval by increasing the number from 100 to 300 for hiring and firing the employee freely as per the will of the employer. The Industrial code has been highly in favour of the employer as increasing the strike notice period of 60 days, has led to diminishing the negotiating power of the unions. It is also noted that it has not extended the right to strike in the unorganized sector. While there are still some loopholes the implementation of these codes will provide benefit to both the employee and the employer in the long run as the codes are uniform and judicial precedent through just and fair regulations solve further issues.


  1. The Industrial Relation Code, 2020.
  2. The Code on Wages, 2019.
  3. The Code on Social Security, 2020.
  4. The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Condition Code, 2020.
  5. Constitution of India.
  6. International Labour Organization, 1919

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