Even as labour reforms are at the top of the Narendra Modi government’s agenda, India Inc has pitched for simplification and rationalisation of rules to lighten the high compliance burden arising out of the complexity of existing labour laws. Since labour is in the concurrent list, which implies that both the Centre and states have the power to enact and implement labour laws within their jurisdictions, there is huge overlap of statutory provisions. India Inc wants the policymakers to do away with these redundancies.
At present, there are 44 central Acts related to labour. The government has started working to rationalise these into in four labour codes on industrial relations, wages, social security & welfare and safety & working conditions. It has already started drafting the code on wages and industrial relations.
The industry favours one annual inspection on labour compliance which, it said, should be co-ordinated and jointly-organised. Facing difficulty in maintaining a set of registers under different laws with duplicate and overlapping provisions and submitting periodic returns under different Acts again involving avoidable duplication and maintenance of returns, records and notices under various labour legislations, it wants to do away with the heavy compliance burden.
The industry wants the government to evolve a common “definition” for a term like “employee” under all enactments as under the present Acts, a person covered under labour laws has been referred to either as an ‘employee’ (ESI Act, 1948; Min Wages Act, 1948; EPF & MP Act, 1952; Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972) or as a ‘workman’ (Employee Compensation Act, 1923, Standing Order Act, 1946, ID Act, 1947) or as a ‘worker’ (Apprentices Act, 1961, Factories Act, 1948) or simply as an ‘employed person’ as in Payment of Wages Act, 1936. Similarly, wages need to be clearly defined.