labor laws in india

This article on a comprehensive list of labor laws in India has been written by Padmasree Manoj pursuing M.A. in business law from NUJS, Kolkata.

Labor law is critical to any country’s economic development, industrial growth and human development and has stayed in focus since the industrial revolution. Especially in democratic countries, the strengthening of protection for the workers on labor issues around employee-employer interaction is of paramount importance. The Constitution of India 1950, Article  14, states that everyone is equal before the law and Article 15 specifically says that non-discrimination against citizens and right of equality of opportunity for employment under the state; Article 19 (1) (C) gives everyone right to form associations or unions, Article 23 prohibits all trafficking and forced labor, while Article 24 prohibits child labor under 14 years old in a factory, mines or any other hazardous employment. The state should strive to promote the welfare of the people by ensuring order across justice, social, economic and political aspects. Article 42 requires the state to make provision for securing just and human conditions of work and for maternity relief. The Article 43(A) included by the 42ND amendment of the Constitution in India in 1976 creates a constitutional right to legislate by codetermination and secure the participation of workers in the management of undertakings.  The labor law mediates many aspects of the relationships between trade unions, employer-employee: union members and employers towards ensuring labor rights and obligations are met.

Labor law covers industrial relations such as addressing unfair labor practices, worker management relations, certification of unions and collective bargaining. Labor law also covers workplace health and safety and employment standards such as working hours, layoff procedures, severance pay, leave and working hours. There are 2 categories within labor law: collective labor law pertaining to the tripartite relationship between employee employer and union, secondly individual labor laws related to employees right at work.

The labor law is reflective of various struggles in the society, including employers cost capabilities, employees demands, health safety conditions, political pressures during a given point in time. The International Labor Organization (ILO) was established as a part of the League Of Nations following the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. Protection of labor and union was of prime importance to ensure post war reconstruction immediately after World War I. Industrial councils were established throughout the world in line with the July 1918 report from the Whitley Commission 1918.

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As World War I came to an end, the International Federation of Trade Union (IFTU) called for a meeting in Berne to discuss the future of IFTU and the proposals from the previous years. The IFTU proposed having the delegates from the Central Powers included as equals. The President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) boycotted the meeting and demanded that Central Powers Delegates should not be given equal powers, instead have a subservient role as they were the cause for bringing about war. The AFL President had his meeting in Paris while the Berne meeting continued. The Berne Conference put forth the demand to end wage labor and the establishment of socialism. If these are not achieved immediately then the ILO attached to the League of Nations would enforce legislature to protect both trade unions and workers. The American’s proposal that labor should not be treated as a commodity, all workers should have the right to sufficient wages to live, and women should receive equal pay for equal work.  The International Labor office would collect data on labor problems and accordingly enforce new labor laws. There were more inclusions from international delegates on weekly rest days, equality of law for foreign workers and periodic inspection for factory conditions. The Berne Commission issues a final report on 4TH March 1919 which became part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles- Peace Treaty at the end of World War I, on 29th October 1919 the first International Labor Conference was held in Washington DC and adopted:  

  • Hours of work in the industry
  • Unemployment
  • Minimum age employment
  • night work for young persons
  • Maternity production
  • Night work for women

The ILO became the member of the United Nations in 1946.


Labor law in India

Our labor laws goes back to the British colonial rule where the labor legislations enforced by the British were mostly designed to protect the interest of British employees. The Factories Act was introduced in 1883 and appeared very considerate of the Indian workers as it mandated 8 hours of work, introduction of overtime wages, restriction of women to work in night and abolition of child labor. The true intent behind this was to make India a more labor costly market, to minimize exports, thereby ensuring British textile flourished and British employer’s interests were protected. The Trade Dispute Act 1929 had restraints on raising dispute, lockout etc. again with the British interest in mind.  These legislations were thoroughly reviewed post-independence to ensure unbiased partnership between capital and labor. In December 1947, a Tripartite conference where it was agreed that labor will be provided, fair working conditions and wages and in return capital will receive uninterrupted production and to ensure post-independence national economic development and all will stay free from strikes and lockouts for a period of 3 years. The Industrial Disputes Act was enacted on 1st April 1947, towards this effect.

Labor laws are of the following categories:

  • Those enacted by Central Government where the Central Government hold the complete responsibility for the enforcement
  • Those enacted by the Central Government and enforced by state government
  • Those enacted by the Central Government and enforced by both central and state government
  • Those enacted and enforced by various state governments which apply to the respective states.
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Labor Laws enacted by the Central Govt. where Central Govt has the sole responsibility for enforcement Labor Laws enacted by the Central Govt. and enforced both by Central and State Govt. Labor Laws enacted by Central Govt. and enforced by State Govt.
The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 The Child Labor Law (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 The Employers Liability Act, 1938
The Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 The Building & Other Construction Act (Regulation of employment and conditions of service, 1996 The Factories Act , 1948
The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 The Contract  Labor (Regulations and Abolition) Act, 1970 The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961
The Mines Act, 1952 The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 The Personal Injuries (Compensation Insurance) Act, 1963
The Indian Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labor Welfare (Cess) Act, 1976 The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 The Personal Injuries (Emergency provisions) Act, 1962
The Indian Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labor Fund Act, 1976 The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 The Plantation Labor Act, 1951
The Mica Mines Labor Welfare Act, 1946 The Inner State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of employment and conditions of service) Act, 1979 The Sales Promotion Employees (conditions of service) Act, 1976
The Beedi Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1976 The Labor Laws (Exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining registers by certain establishments) Act, 1988 The Trade Unions Act, 1926
The Limestones and Dolomite Mines Labor Welfare Fund Act, 1972 The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 The Weekly Holidays Act, 1942
The Cine Workers Welfare (Cess) Act, 1981 The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 The Working Journalists and other newspaper employees (Conditions of Service) & Miscellaneous Provision Act, 1955
The Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1976 The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 The Workmens’ Compensation Act, 1923
The Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981 The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 The Employment Exchange (Compulsory notification of vacancies) Act, 1959
  The Payment of Wages Act, 1936 The Children (pledging of labor) Act, 1938
  The Cine Workers and cinema theatre works (Regulations of employment) Act, 1981 The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act, 1976
  The Building &Other construction workers Cess Act, 1996 The Beedi & Cigar Workers (Conditions of employment) Act, 1966
  The Apprentices Act, 1961  
  Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008  
  Working Journalists (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958  
  Merchant Shipping Act, 1958  
  Sales Promotion Employees Act, 1976  
  Dangerous Machines (regulation) Act, 1983  
  Dock Workers (Regulation of employment) Act, 1948  
  Dock Workers (Regulations of employment) (Inapplicability to major port) Act, 1997  
  Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act, 2005  



Our policy towards labor has been evolving towards maintaining industrial peace as well as promoting labor welfare and provides for,

  • a framework for employee-employer relationship
  • conciliation mechanism for high investment projects
  • creating new jobs
  • social security for workers
  • long term settlements
  • prioritization of fund allocation
  • labor reforms
  • amendments to labor judiciary
  • amendments to industrial dispute Act
  • more labor sectors covered under minimum wages Act
  • enforcement of child labor Act
  • enhance medical facilities for workers
  • providing robust industrial training
  • habilitation for displaced workers
  • modern functioning of employment exchanges

The labor laws of our country has dignity of human labor and safeguarding the interest of workers as part of the fundamental rights of the Constitution of India and direct principles of state policy. Labor laws are also influenced by important human rights standards as expressed by the United Nations.



Labor Laws can be classified as follows:

  • Laws Related to Industrial Relations such as,
  • Trade Unions Act, 1926
  • Industrial Employment Standing Order Act, 1946
  • Industrial Disputes Act, 1947


  • Law related to Wages, such as,
    • Payment of Wages Act, 1936
    • Minimum Wages Act, 1948
    • Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
    • Working Journalists (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958
  • Laws related to working hours, conditions of service and employment such as,
    • Factories Act, 1948
    • Plantation Labor Act, 1951
    • Mines Act, 1952
    • Working Journalists and Other newspaper Employees (Conditions of services and Misc. provisions) Act, 1955
    • Merchant Shipping Act, 1958
    • Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961
    • Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966
    • Contract  Labor (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970
    • Sales Promotion Employees Act, 1976
    • Interstate migrant workmen (regulation and employment and conditions of service) Act, 1979
    • Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986
    • Building and other construction workers (Regulation of employment and conditions of service) Act, 1996
    • Building and other construction workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996
    • Cine Workers & Cinema theatre workers  (regulation of employment) Act, 1981
    • Dangerous machines (regulation) Act, 1983
    • Dock Workers(regulation of employment) Act, 1948
    • Dock Workers (regulations of employment) Act, (Inapplicability to major ports) Act, 1997
    • Employment of manual scavengers and construction of Dry latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993
    • Industrial employment (standing orders), Act, 1946
    • Mines and minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957
    • Plantation Labor Act, 1951
    • Private security agencies (regulation) Act, 2005
  • Laws related to Equity and Empowerment of Women :
    • Maternity Benefits Act, 1961
    • Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
  • Laws related to deprived and disadvantaged Section s of society :
    • Bonded Labor system (Abolition) Act, 1976
    • Child Labor (Prohibition & regulation) Act, 1986
    • Children (Pledging of Labor) Act, 1933


  • Laws related to social security :
    • Workmens’ Compensation Act, 1923
    • Employees State Insurance Act, 1948
    • Employees Provident Fund and Misc. Provision Act, 1952
    • Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
    • Employers Liability Act, 1938
    • Beedi Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1976
    • Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1976
    • Cine Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1981
    • Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981
    • Fatal Accidents Act, 1855
    • Iron ore mines, Manganese ore mines and Chrome ore mines Labor Welfare Cess Act, 1976
    • Iron ore mines, Manganese ore mines and Chrome ore mines Labor Welfare Fund Act, 1976
    • Limestone & Dolomite Labor Welfare Fund Act, 1972
    • Mica Mines Labor Welfare Fund Act, 1946
    • Personal Injuries (compensation insurance) Act, 1963
    • Personal Injuries (Emergency provisions) Act, 1962
    • Unorganized workers social securities Act, 2008

Let us now study some of the important Labor law Acts to understand the provisions and objectives

The Factories Act, 1948

The main objective of this Act is to ensure adequate safety measures and to promote health and welfare of the workers employed I factories; prevent haphazard growth of factories with due approval of plans prior to construction of the factories.


This Act is covered across the whole of India for all manufacturing establishments and to all those factories using power and employing 10 or more workers, and if not using power employing 20 or more workers on any day of the preceding 12 months.  The Act consists of 120 Sections and 3 schedules. Schedule 1 contains list of industries involving hazardous processes. Schedule 2 contains a permissible level of certain chemical substance in work environment. Schedule 3 contains list of notifiable diseases.

Key Provisions of the Act

Those regarding facilities and conveniences are as follows:

Section  11- The factory should be kept clean

Section  12- There should be arrangement to dispose of wastes and effluents

Section  13- Ventilation should be adequate, reasonable temperature for comfort of employees should be maintained.

Section  14- Dust and fume should be controlled and kept below permissive levels

Section 15- Artificial humidification should be maintained at prescribed levels

Section  16- overcrowding should be avoided

Section 17-20 – adequate lighting, drinking water, latrines, urinals and spittoons should be provided.

Those regarding welfare are as follows:

Section  42- Adequate facilities for washing, sitting, storing clothes during working hours

Section  44- If a worker has to work in a standing position sitting arrangement to take short rest must be provided.

Section  45- Adequate first aid boxes should be provided and maintained.

Those regarding large factories are as follows:

Section  46- Ambulance room if 500 or more workers are employed, canteen if 250 or more employees are employed and it should be sufficiently lighted and ventilated and suitably located.

Section  47- Restrooms and shelters with drinking water when 150 or more workmen are employed.

Section  48- Creches if 30 or more women workers are employed.

Section  49- Full-time welfare officer if the company has 500 or more workers

Section  40(B)- Safety officer if 1000 or more workmen are employed.

Those regarding safety are as follows:

Seection 21-27 – All machinery should be properly fenced to protect workers when machinery is in motion.

Section  28-29 – Hoist and lift should be in good condition and tested periodically

Section  31- Pressure plant must be checked after rules

Section  32- Staircase and means of access to floors should be of sound constructions and free from obstruction.                 

Section  35-36 – Safety appliances for eyes from dangerous gas, dust and fumes must be provided. Workers should use these safety appliances.

Section  38- Adequate fire fighting equipment must be available

Section  41(A-H)- Incase of hazardous substances additional safety measures have been prescribed to be provided by the factories.

Those regarding working hours are as follows:

Section  51-  A worker cannot be employed for more than 48 hours in a week

Section  52(1)- Weekly holiday is compulsory. If a workman is asked to work on a weekly holiday he should have a full holiday within 3 days immediately after the holiday.

Section  54- Workman cannot be employed for more than 9 hours in a day.

Section  55- Atleast half an rest should be provided after 5 hours.

Section  56- Total period of work including rest interval cannot be more than 10.5 hours.

Section  58- Overlapping of shift is not permitted.

Section  61- Notice of period of work should be displayed.

Those regarding overtime wage is as follows:

Section  59(1)- Overtime wages of double the rate of wages are payable if a worker works beyond 9hours a day or 48 hours a week.

Section  60- A workman cannot work in 2 factories as it will be double employment. Register of overtime should be maintained.

Those regarding women are as follows:

Section  66- A women worker cannot be employed beyond the hours 6am to 7pm. The state government can grant exemptions to factories however no women can be permitted to work during 10pm to 5am. The Factories Act has been proposed to be amended and allow night shift to women worker. The government has decision to amend Section  66 of the Factories Act  1948 to allow women workers to work in the night. The government granted this flexibility after discussions with the representatives of the employers and trade unions. This proposed amendment would inter-alia provide that the employer has to ensure the adequate safety of the women workers.

Section  62- A register of all workers should be provided and no worker should be permitted to work unless his name is in the register. Likewise, a record of overtime should also be maintained.

Those regarding leaves are as follows:

Section  79- worker is eligible for annual leave with wages at the rate of one day for every 20 days of work provided that he had worked for 240 or more days in the previous calender year. Section  79- While calculating 240 days earned leave, maternity leave upto 21 weeks and layoff days will be considered but leave shall not be earned in those days.Section  81- leave can be accumulated upto 30 days and wage for the period must be paid before the leave begin if the leave is for four days or more.

Those regarding child employment are as follows:
Section  67- Child below age 14 should not be employed
Section  71- Child above 14 but below 15 years of age can be employed only for 4.5 hours per day. Section  68- He should be certified fit for duty by a certifying surgeon.
Section  70 – An adolescent over age 15 but below 18 years of age can work full day but not permitted to work in the night.
Section  108(1)- The abstract of the Factories Act in English and local language should be displayed in the notice board. Name and address of the factories inspector and the certified surgeon should be displayed on the notice board.
Section  88- Notice of any accident causing disablement of more than 48 hours, dangerous occurrences and any worker contacting occupational diseases should be notified to the factories inspector.

Industrial Disputes Act, 1947

The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 was enacted to make provisions for settlements of disputes related to providing safeguard to the workers. Industrial disputes relates to any difference of opinion, conflict or disagreement between the management and workers usually represented by a member of trade union and this could be regarding issues over pay or any other working conditions.


As per Section  2(K) of Industrial Disputes Act 1947, an industrial dispute is defined as any dispute or difference between employees and employers or between employers and workmen or between workmen and which is connected with the employment or the non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of Labor of any person. There are 40 Section detailed in 7 Chapters,

Chapter 1- titles definitions.

Chapter 2- authorities under the Act including conciliation officers, Labor Court and Tribunal

Chapter 3 -main part of the Act with references to disputes in Labor Courts and industrial Tribunals

Chapter 4 – procedures, duties of authorities constituted according to the Act

cahpter5 – related to strikes and lockouts, provisions on lay-off, retrenchment and closure

Chapter 6 – various penalties under the Act

Chapter 7 – miscellaneous provisions

Key provisions of the Act

  • Provides clear definitions of industry, industrial dispute, trade union, strike, wages, workmen, lay-off, lock-out, retrenchments etc.
  • Helps to investigate and settling disputes through various mechanisms such as Courts of enquiry, Labor Court, voluntary arbitration, work committee, Tribunals.
  • Awards of Labor Courts and Tribunals
  • Rights of appeal
  • Settlements outside conciliation
  • Protection of workmen during proceedings
  • Notice of change in working conditions
  • Procedures related to strikes and lock-outs
  • Compensation on lay-off, retrenchment – Section  25-Q
  • Retrenchment proceedings
  • Unfair Labor practice- Section  25-T, Section 25-U
  • Penalties, recovery of dues from employer
  • Obligation and rights of employees
  • Illegal closure – Section  25-R(1)

Powers and authorities according to this Act 

  • Central Government may appoint Conciliation Officers, Boards Of Conciliation, Courts Of Enquiry, Labor Courts, Tribunal, to make amendments to the schedules of the Act and to delegate power to other offices.
  • State government may appoint state level Conciliation Officers, Boards Of Conciliation, Courts Of Enquiry, Labor Courts, Tribunal, to make amendments to the schedules of the Act and to delegate power to other offices.
  • Conciliation officers may enter any establishment on a dispute and enforced attendance of any person for examination.
  • Court of enquiry may enter any establishment and compel for documents, enforce attendance of any person and appoint people with subject matter knowledge to work on the dispute.
  • Board Of Conciliation has similar powers for promoting the settlements of industrial disputes.
  • Labor Court is appointed for adjudication of industrial disputes as per schedule 2 of the Act.
  • Tribunals are appointed by the appropriate government adjudication of disputes as per schedule 2 and 3 of the Act.
  • National Tribunals have similar responsibilities on disputes pertaining to multiple states and of national importance.

The Shops and Establishments Act

The Shops and Establishment Act is a state legislation and every state has its own rules for the Act, the Act provides statutory obligations and writes to employees and employers in the unauthorized sector of employment which is shops and other establishment.


This Act is applicable to all persons employed in an establishment with or without wages and excludes family members of the employers. As per this Act any shop or establishment should be registered within 30 days of commencement of work, however, in Delhi, registration is kept pending even after 30 days. Hence, this rule varies from state to state. Any closure of Shop or Establishment requires 15 days of notice prior to closure. The state government can provide an exemption to any establishment on the provisions of his Act.

The Act defines,

  • Working hours per day and per week.
  • Rest intervals, opening and closing hours, closing days, holidays, overtime, guidelines.
  • Children and women employment leave guidelines on maternity, annual, sick leave, casual leave etc.
  • Employment guidelines and rules for termination of service.

The Shop and Establishment Act prescribes registration certificate, maintenance of registers on employment, leave register and any breaches such as non-registration, non-renewal, continuous work without intervals, deviation to the Act on employing female workers, child Labor, not paying wages as per rates prescribed under Minimal Wages Act will attract Action as appropriate on the defaulters.

The Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970

A contractor is a person who undertakes work for an establishment through supplying contract laborers for any work of the establishment. The principle employer in a factory is the owner where the person is responsible for managing the factory as per The Factories Act, 1948. Workman is a person employed to provide any manual, technical, clerical, skilled, semi-skilled work to an establishment. Any person employed in a managerial, supervisory or administrative capacity or an outworker to whom materials are given to world outside the employers premises are excluded from the definition of workmen.

Key provisions of the Contract Labor Act, 1941

  • Registration of employers: The principle employer must submit application in triplicate along with receipt of payment of fees to the registering officer. The certificate of registration will be issued by the registering officer.
  • License contractor: The principle employer should appoint workers only through licensed contractors. The contactors for various services should have a valid license issued as per the Act.
  • Payment of wages: The principle employer should have a representative to be present at the time of wage payment by the contractor to the contract labourers and ensure that payments are in compliance with the Act on wages.
  • Facilities provided to the contract laborers include restroom, canteen, latrine and urinal, drinking water and first aid.

Records in the form of following registers need to be maintained by the principle employer.

  • Employment register
  • Register of wages
  • Muster roll
  • Register of deduction for damage or loss
  • Register for fines
  • Register for advances
  • Register for overtime



The Indian labor laws enforce statutory compliance and is a foremost obligation for any employer to maintain records, summit returns and statutory deposits in a meticulous manner. Any violence or delay complying with the statutory requirements will lead to serious consequences, including, shutdown of the entity. Specifically, according to Section  25(T) of The Industrial Dispute Act 1947, no employer or workman or trade union whether registered under The Trade Union Act 1926, or not, shall commit any unfair labor practice, including discrimination against workman. The applicability of Labor law for women includes Factories Act  1948, Maternity Benefit Act 1951, Equal Remuneration Act 1976 and also addresses occupational hazards concerning safety of women at work place. In 1997, the Supreme Court of India, in the case of Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan held that sexual harassment of working women amounts to violation of Rights Of Gender Equality. With the evolution in the work force, advancement of technology and new types IT enables services dominating the growth economy in India, the labor laws in India needs further review and realignment as appropriate to the current market situation.


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