While the amendment to the apprentices Act will help absorb more freshers in the manufacturing sector, changes in factories Act are being considered to allow companies to scale up operations through extended hours of work. The proposed changes in the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act will simply filing of returns and reduce hassles for companies.
The Cabinet has approved the Bills. We hope to introduce them in this session, Tomar said after a board meeting of ESIC. The main objective is to create jobs but that is linked to industrial expansion, he said justifying the amendments in labour laws. The government is also trying to finetune the Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Bill, but it may not be possible to introduce it before Winter Session, he added.
He ruled out any immediate move to amend the ESI Act but said a series of steps have been decided to increase the welfare of insured persons including the raising the amount of cover from 1,500 to 3,000 and doubling the doctors' fee from Rs 150 to Rs 300 per person where there are no ESIC hospitals.
In case of the apprentices Act, a labour ministry note said the proposal is to enhance the scope of apprenticeship training to all graduates in various fields such as BA, BCom and BSc other than the those having a technical education from ITIs or engineering colleges. Also, the proposal is to make it mandatory for industry to keep the number of apprentices to 2.5-10% of the total worker with the flexibility to take into account seasonality in operation.
The government also wants to extend the period of apprenticeship training to a maximum 5 years from the present 6 months to 4 years to encourage skill building.
Also, companies can be allowed the flexibility to frame their own policies on whether to retain an apprentice or not after completion of training. Under the present rule, companies are not bound to offer any employment to any apprentice who has completed the period of his apprenticeship training in his establishment, nor it is obligatory on the part of the apprentice to accept an employment under the employer. While this is an impediment which discourages youth to join the apprenticeship training as they are not sure whether they will get employment after completion of the apprenticeship training, companies are also wary of imparting training to freshers fearing that they may join competitors at a higher salary after the training.
The government also proposes to dilute the penalty under the apprentice Act. Due to fear of imprisonment, employers tend to avoid coming under the purview of the Act and training facilities available with them go unutilised. The government may propose that the penalty should be Rs 1,000 every occurrence of the offense of not meeting the apprentice quota.
In case of the Factories Act, the labour ministry proposes to allow companies to hire women workers for night shifts while doubling the overtime to 100 hours in a quarter.
Tomar dodged questions on the controversial Industrial Disputes Act, which hinders quick hiring and firing of workers quickly.
Though discussion has started in amending the politically sensitive Industrial Disputes Act to make hiring and firing easy, the relaxation may first be applicable for National Investment Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs) and not the entire manufacturing sector. Industry has demanded major changes in the Act, including raising the threshold limit from 100 workers to 1,000 for a company to mandatorily seek government approval for retrenchment, layoffs or closure of an unit.