I always had reservations about the human resources (HR) personnel. Like any private employee, I used to think that all they do is conduct HR interviews, throw birthday and retirement parties, organise additional workshops, cricket matches and the likes. To put it mildly, I didn’t think much of them for a long time.

However, I had met the perfect HR before that, during an internship. She was hardworking and dedicated. She had answers to all the queries from any department and always greeted everyone with a wide grin. She was first to come into work and often the last to leave. One day I overheard her talking to someone about labour laws. I was curious as to why is an HR talking about laws. So during lunch, I asked her.

She told me that as an HR she has to deal with a multitude of labour laws during her daily work. Since the company was governed by the Shops and Establishments Act, it was governed by a variety of labour laws like Payments of Bonus Act, Equal Remuneration Act,  Payment of Gratuity Act, Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, Employees’ State Insurance Act, Maternity Benefit Act, etc.

For an HR in a factory setup, they will have to know the industrial relations laws like the Factories Act, Minimum Wages Act, Trade Unions Act, Industrial Employment Standing Order Act, Industrial Disputes Act, etc.

The HR personnel are required to have the necessary knowledge while preparing employment contracts and service conditions like provident fund, house rent allowance, leaves, working hours etc. In short, wherever there are employment-related terms or benefits or conditions, the relevant laws will apply.

This conversation was a revelation to me. Not only because I had my preconceived notions about an HR’s job, but I was also somehow thinking less of them too. I am sure I am not the only employee to make such an error in judgment about HR personnel. In fact, they do so much more than we give them credit for. They not only have to know how to manage the resources, but they also need to know the laws too!

Here’s why an HR should know about labour laws:

Knowing the Employment Agreement

Although a lawyer drafts the contract, the HR needs to have the necessary knowledge of the service conditions and a clear understanding of what is being offered. The employment agreement is the holy grail for both the employer and employee.

Any rights, obligations, disputes arising out of the employment agreement have to be kept in mind by the HR. They are the ones managing the employees. Therefore, they need to know the terms and conditions assured to the employees and their obligations under the Payments of Bonus Act, Equal Remuneration Act,  Payment of Gratuity Act, Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, Employees’ State Insurance Act, Maternity Benefit Act, etc.

The employee will first go to the HR for any day-to-day issues. For instance, the insurance has be to facilitated through HR. Any insurance claim has to be informed to HR before issuance. The HR gets in touch with the insurance agency representative to facilitate the claim payments.

Ensuring a Healthy Working Environment

The HR has to ensure that employees have the necessary amenities, safety, and hygiene at the workplace. The work environment should be conducive to the output. The HR has to ensure that the workplace is adhering to the standards assured under the labour laws.

HR personnel work closely with the employees. They need to be able to ensure a healthy work environment for the employees. The Factories Act, The Shops and Commercial Establishments Act(s) of the respective States generally contain provisions relating to registration of an establishment, working hours, overtime, leave, privilege leave, notice pay, working conditions for women employees, etc.

The HR has to ensure that the work environment is safe for all employees. If female employees are working overtime, there should be suitable transportation provided to them after hours. The HR also looks into providing things like clean premises, hygienic restrooms, etc.

Prevention of Sexual Harassment At Workplace

For a healthy work environment, based on the realistic situations, legislation like Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 are in place. The HR personnel have to be involved in the drafting of the policies and its implementation.

In many companies, mandatory workshops are conducted by HR to create awareness about sexual harassment prevention at workplaces. These workshops help both men and women to recognise the unwelcome advances at work and can avoid them. The employees also learn the process to address such issues.

Due to the nature of such offence, it becomes imperative for the HR to be informed and handle it with sensitivity. There are labour law courses which help HR personnel learn about the nuances of the workplace sexual harassment. Many companies hire HR personnel based on their knowledge of such compliances.

Grievances Redressal

The first person we go to for a minor disturbance to a significant turmoil at work is our HR personnel. They are the ones who keep an eye on the retention failures, nepotism, corruption, etc.  HR personnel need to know the laws like Factories Dispute Act, Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, etc. to address the employees’ grievances.

Any grievance of the employee is dealt by the HR personnel first. It can be as small as a request for an ergonomic chair at work, to as severe as a sexual harassment complaint. The HR personnel are the first to hear these grievances. They accordingly guide the employee based on the law and the company’s policies. Then they facilitate the grievance through the different departments and channels, to ensure that the adequate relief is given to the aggrieved employees.

The HR personnel are in a crucial position to address the issue suitably and help avoid any expensive future lawsuits for the company. They are the first responders in a company, and this makes them a crucial aspect of the grievance redressal process. A concerned HR can help calm an employee simply by hearing them out and guiding them accordingly. They are the link between the company and the employee during the whole process.

Handling the Salary Components

Now comes the most critical aspect of a job for any employee – salary. While the finance department deals with the actual disbursement of your salary, an HR has to manage the components related to it to make the salary payment easier. They streamline the whole process and oversee the appraisals too. They need to understand the Payments of Bonus Act, Equal Remuneration Act,  Payment of Gratuity Act, Employees Provident Fund to allocate the necessary brackets on the taxable income.

I learned the taxation of my salaried income by sitting with my HR, rather than the other way around. I knew the theory and the limits, but a very patient HR explained the entire process to a rookie like me. I did not know how to claim my taxes at the end of the year. All my informed investments are thanks to him!

They go over and beyond in their jobs to ensure that the employees have attended the compulsory seminars, filled out the appraisal application, income tax returns, etc. on a regular basis. I remember one of the HRs used to send a reminder email to all employees and then go to each department physically to remind them. She need not do that, but that’s how dedicated they are to the job.

They have to assess and review the attendance, leaves taken, insurance, taxable components and requisite documentation, etc. before the salary every month. They work harder before the salary week to ensure all the salaries are released on time.

The HR personnel do all these and more. You can know more laws that an HR needs to know in this article. Imagine if you had to do your job and arrange activities on top of it to keep the employees entertained and engaged all the time! That is not easy an easy profile.

So here’s my sincerest apologies to all the misunderstood HR personnel who bring it all into the job, every day. I hope this article helps remove a lot of misconceptions about HR personnel.

 

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