~ Anubhooti Shaw
"The seeds of success in every nation on Earth are best planted in women and children."
~ Joyce Banda
As the notion existed hundreds of years ago that women and children represent the air of vulnerability in a society, may be that is debatable. It is debatable because if oozing empowerment, nurturing the world with motherhood, initiating smiles and having innocence respectively for women and children is a sign of vulnerability, then it is the best compliment one can ever receive. The status of equality or asking for one only asserts the fact that things are not equal.
This sense in society and the workplace gets worse when one has to infuse laws to protect the equal interests of women and children. Therefore this equality allows them in the workplace and establishments. Factories are one such place to be recognized. Central and state governments have specified the concerns in the Factories Act, 1948.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN SPECIFIED UNDER FACTORIES ACT, 1948
There are several sections under the Act which safeguard the interests of the women and with the aim to provide a healthy working environment. Healthy environment imply provisions for crèches, separate washroom facilities, safety & health measures and prohibition of night shift.
Separate washroom facilities have been enumerated under Section 19 of the Act where it clearly declares that the "separate enclosed accommodation shall be provided for male and female worker".
Section 22(2) states "No woman or young person shall be allowed to clean, lubricate or adjust any part of a prime mover or of any transmission machinery while the prime mover or transmission machinery is in motion, or to clean, lubricate or adjust any part of any machine if the cleaning, lubrication or adjustment thereof would expose the woman or young person to risk of injury from any moving part either of that machine or of any adjacent machinery." The inclusion of children or 'young person' shows the quantum of risks for them to handle.
There is a strict regulation that young people or children are prohibited to work on dangerous machines. Section 23 confirms the fact that:
"(1) No young person [shall be required or allowed to work] at any machine to which this section applies, unless he has been fully instructed as to the dangers arising in connection with the machine and the precautions to be observed and—
(a) Has received sufficient training in work at the machine, or
(b) It should be under adequate supervision by a person who has a thorough knowledge and experience of the machine."
Then there is Section 27 which claims that "No woman or child shall be employed in any part of a factory for pressing cotton in which a cotton opener is at work:
Provided that if the feed-end of a cotton-opener is in a room separated from the delivery end by a partition extending to the roof or to such height as the Inspector may in any particular case specify in writing, women and children may be employed on the side of the partition where the feed-end is situated."
Next is Section 42 where it says that:
"In every factory—
(a) Adequate and suitable facilities for washing shall be provided and maintained for the use of the workers therein;
(b) Separate and adequately screened facilities shall be provided for the use of male and female workers;
(c) Such facilities shall be conveniently accessible and shall be kept clean."
This habit of clean sanitary conditions is not only important for women and children but also other workers irrespective of gender.
The system of crèches is helpful for mostly single mothers and whereas also extends to every woman. Therefore Section 48 says:
"Creches.—(1) In every factory wherein more than 2
[thirty women workers] are ordinarily employed there shall be provided and maintained a suitable room or rooms for the use of children under the age of six years of such women.
(2) Such rooms shall provide adequate accommodation, shall be adequately lighted and ventilated, shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition and shall be under the charge of women trained in the care of children and infants.
(3) The State Government may make rules—
(a) Prescribing the location and the standards in respect of construction, accommodation, furniture and other equipment of rooms to be provided under this section;
(b) requiring the provision in factories to which this section applies of additional facilities for the care of children belonging to women workers, including suitable provision of facilities for washing and changing their clothing;
(c) Requiring the provision in any factory of free milk or refreshment or both for such children;
(d) Requiring that facilities shall be given in any factory for the mothers of such children to feed them at the necessary intervals."
Though Section 54 of the Factories Act, 1948 doesn't specify the gender therefore working hours for adults (men or women) remain unisex.
Certain safety and security measures have been also kept in consideration for the women where they are stated as further restrictions on employment of women. Section 66(1) asserts:
"(1) the provisions of this Chapter shall, in their application to women in factories, be supplemented by the following further restrictions, namely:—
(a) No exemption from the provisions of section 54 may be granted in respect of any woman;
(b) No woman shall be [required or allowed to work in any factory] except between the hours of 6 A.M. and 7 P.M.:
Provided that the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, in respect of [any factory or group or class or description of factories,] very the limits laid down in clause (b), but so that no such variation shall authorize the employment of any woman between the hours of 10 P.M. and 5 A.M.
[(c) There shall be no change of shifts except after a weekly holiday or any other holiday.]"
In the case of Vasantha R. v. Union Of India (UOI) And Ors., it was found that Section 66(1)(b) is unconstitutional in nature and is violative under Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution of India. Now the time period expressed in section can be altered with the help of notification but only restricted to 5am to 10pm. The notification was released by the government of Karnataka on November 20, 2019 which allows women to work in night shifts between 7pm to 6am.
Chapter VII of the Act purely deals with the provisions related to children where every action is accounted for Section 67 proposes that children under 14 have no room to work under the Act.
Section 68 ensures that though the child is above 14 but then he/she is capable to carry out the work throughout without any medical emergency. A fitness certificate is a compulsory requirement which should be agreed by the factory manager.
Details of the fitness certificate are incorporated in Section 69. This fitness certificate of the child should consist of age proof, medical information and which should not extend more than 12 months.
Section 71 produces the limit of working hours of 4½ and prohibition of night shift for children. And no female child should work other than the specified hours i.e., 8am to 7pm.
Sections 72 to 77 state notice periods, registration, medical examination, power to make rules and other law provisions which are not barred under the Act for children only.
Section 79(1)(b) encapsulates the right to have maternity leave for any number of days but the limit should not exceed 12 weeks.
Women are the trunk of the tree called society from which the branches, their children are born that provide a cool shadow to humanity as the tree grows. Therefore it is very important on our part to protect that shadow which empowers every single bit of life. Laws which protect the concerns of women and children need to break stereotypes and pronounce uniqueness in their work so that this 21st century doesn't feel less important. The effect of westernization and modernization has implanted a new variety of ideas and perspectives which definitely need to be incorporated. Some of the transparent moves of the government on national and international levels may have backfired but the positivity to implement is what matters. To ensure that the provisions are implemented correctly, there should be investigation from the grassroots level so that the outcomes can be achieved which were anticipated at the first place.
 (2001) IILLJ 843 Mad
● Constitution of India
● Factories Act, 1948