On 1st December, 2015, President Pranab Mukherjee approved the Factories Amendment Bill, 2015 of Maharashtra which among other things, amends section 66 (1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948, now allowing women to work night shifts from 7pm to 6am in factories in Maharashtra. Given the rise of educated women ready to join the workforce, there was a need to create employment opportunities for them and tap into this talent pool.
The current position of the law (Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948) prevents women from working in a night shift ( i.e. from 7pm-6am). Maharashtra will join other States like Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh who are in the process of allowing women to work night shifts.
This move is aimed to help improve working conditions and generate more employment opportunities for women who are qualified for such jobs. The implications would include more benefits for them in sectors like IT, Hospitality, Health and other industries (sectors where employment opportunities exist for women). Interestingly it is predicted that this shall help boost exports of industries such as garments, gems & jewelry, canning of fish and other food processing that engage women on a large scale.
The section also holds the owner or occupier of the factory responsible for the safety of the women during the night shift and in transit. It also requires them to provide for night crèches, and protection from sexual harassment. Night duties shall always be voluntary, with a written constent from her which is required to be recorded.
This move is welcome and in alignment with India’s development goals, however it will also begin to change the social fabric as more women join the workforce.
Section 66 now reads as follows:-
(1) Every worker shall have equal right to work opportunities,
Provided, In case of night shifts for women worker, the occupier shall be responsible to provide for night crèches, protection of dignity and honour, protection from sexual harassment, and remain fully responsible for safety within the factory premises and during transit from workplace to their home. Night duty of women worker shall always be voluntary and express written consent shall always be on record.
While the occupier would be encouraged to provide paid maternity leave, no women worker, shall be allowed to work during a total period of sixteen weeks before and after her child birth, of which at least eight weeks shall be before the expected child birth and for such additional period as recommended by the consulting doctor/ registered medical practitioner.
Provided the regulator make changes to the duration of such leave based on scientific evidence
Provided further that there shall be no change of shifts except after a weekly holiday or any other holiday.