Our Bureau

New Delhi, March 29

THE Government today decided to amend the Factories Act, 1948, to allow women to work in late night shifts, provided the employers guarantee adequate safeguards for women workers.

"The Cabinet today decided to amend the Act so that women can also work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.," the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr Jaipal Reddy, told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

The amendment of the Factories Act will provide flexibility in the matter of employment of women during night hours, he said.

The move is likely to benefit all factories engaged in manufacturing across sectors including textile, auto, paper, cement, shoes and drugs and pharmaceuticals since the labour supply available for their late night shifts will logically increase.

The Factories Act, in fact, covers all those premises where 10 or more workers are engaged in a manufacturing process "with aid of power" or where "20 or more workers are engaged in the manufacturing process without aid of power," according to official sources. However, workshops where manufacturing processes are carried out for purposes of education, training, research or reformation could be exempted by the State Governments from all or certain provisions of the Factories Act.

Incidentally, IT services and IT-enabled services, that engage a lot of women workers, will not be affected by this move as they are governed by the Shops and Establishments Act.

Mr Reddy added that flexible work timings for women shall be allowed "provided adequate safeguards in the factory as regards occupational safety and health, equal opportunity for women workers, adequate protection of their dignity, honour and safety and their transportation from the factory premises to the nearest point of their residence" are made.

State Governments have been authorised to "allow employment of women workers between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. in such factory or group or class or description of factories subject to such conditions as may be specified therein," pointed out an official release. The State Governments, or "any person authorised" by them in this regard, can take such a decision after consulting the employer and workers concerned.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 30, 2005)
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