The Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill has been recently approved by the cabinet for promoting job opportunities in the Information Technology and Retail sector of India by enabling round-the-clock service. Besides accelerating economic growth, the Bill aims to provide greater employment opportunities for people.
The key objective of this Bill is to tackle some grave issues such as—
i. Rigidity in the operating hours of commercial organisations;
ii. Difficulty in the process of registration or renewal; and
iii. Hassle of maintaining statutory files.
The Bill covering cinemas, theatres, restaurants, bars, banks, warehouses and more aims to uplift the economic scenario of the country by enabling different establishments to serve their customers, around-the-clock. Moreover, this option is ideal for a country like India that has ample skilled labours.
The Bill covers the following aspects—
i. It is applicable to business enterprises having ten or more employees, excluding manufacturing units.
ii. Elimination of licensing for checking bureaucratic corruption.
iii. Allowing establishments to operate round the year and function 24/7.
iv. Granting 5 paid holidays for festivals and three national holidays.
v. The Act encourages no discrimination against women in matters of employment, promotion, training or transfer.
vi. Women workers will be allowed to work in night shifts only if the establishments provide essential facilities for protecting their dignity.
vii. The Act assures the uniformity in working conditions throughout the length and breadth of the country to generate more employment opportunities.
viii. Introducing uniformity in parliamentary provisions so that each and every state can embrace the Bill.
Women’s Safety: A Prime Concern
Since women’s safety is a key concern in India, women have been facing protective discrimination as they are prohibited from working nightshifts. This newly passed Bill declares that the labour department is responsible for ensuring that the commercial enterprise will provide all necessary requirements such as safe transportation, separate restrooms for women employees, and all other women-friendly necessities to avert sexual harassments and crimes against women at the workplace. The Government has kept this factor on high priority.
Focus on Welfare of Employees
The Model Shop and Establishment Bill stresses the importance of providing basic facilities to the employees by the employer, such as— lavatories, canteens, clean drinking water, crèche, and first-aid.
Though the Bill does not expound much on minimum wages, it emphasises on a 9 hours working day and 48 hours of work a week. However, IT firms and biotechnology companies have been exempted from this norm. Nevertheless, the biggest challenge in executing this Bill is to make certain that the privilege of the workforce is met, keeping the regulations uncomplicated and trouble-free.
Challenges that Need to Be Addressed
Though the Bill has several advantages, it also has certain shortcomings that need to be addressed by the Government so that Indian states can accept it without any apprehension. For example, allowing shops, malls, multiplexes, etc., to operate 24/7 will cause conventional retail enterprises and small retail units in India to undergo significant losses, further affecting the livelihood of millions of Indians who depend solely on retail trade for earning an income.
i. Moreover, since the Model Act is applicable only to retail establishments having at least 10 employees, majority of retail establishments in India that have less than 10 employees would be deprived of the proposed benefits.
ii. Instead of stressing on skill development, innovation and efficiency for revolutionising the finance and IT sector, the model shop and establishment bill emphasise more on augmenting output by utilising additional labour. This will no doubt help our country to keep hold of its competitiveness, but only for a short-term.
iii. Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TNCCI) are also quite cynical about the Model Act. According to TNCCI, round the year service will not only affect the health of workers, but also lead to cultural degradation in India.
iv. Since the establishments will operate throughout the night, late-night outings may increase crime rates in India.
v. What’s more, round the clock operation of establishments will raise the energy requirements significantly in India.
The above-mentioned weaknesses should not stand in the way of executing this Act. This is a great step taken by our Government and if executed properly, it will help our country reach new heights.
Success of the Act depends significantly on availability of safe and affordable public transportation facilities for people along with proper security arrangements at night to ensure the safety of Indian citizens and tourists. At the same time, measures should be taken to support the health of workers by offering health insurance policies.
Though the Bill has been facing criticism from certain sections of people for affecting social life of the workers, on the other hand it cannot be denied that more manpower will generate more money which will bring loads of prosperity to the workers as well the country. Indian states should implement the model with proper planning, so as to transform the beautiful dream into a reality.
Authored By: Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Mall