Include farm, gig workers under unorganised category

Shishir Sinha New Delhi | Updated on July 31, 2020

Gov urged to include farm and gig workers

A Parliamentary Committee has recommended expanding the definition of ‘Unorganised Worker’ to include gig workers, and agriculture workers among others. It has also reiterated a qualifying period for payment of gratuity to one year.

The Department related Standing Committee for Labour Ministry, under the Chairmanship of BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab submitted its report on ‘The Code on Social Security, 2019’ to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Friday. This is one of the four Bills presented by the Labour Ministry and intends to amalgamate, simplify and rationalise the relevant provisions of the following nine central labour enactments relating to social security. The Bill is expected to be taken up for consideration and passage during the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

The Committee has suggested that the government could modify the definition of ‘Unorganised Worker’ and include in it gig workers (part time, temporary etc), platform workers (individuals who use an app/a website to match themselves with need of employers), freelance workers, agricultural workers, self-employed workers etc. so as to ensure access to social security and welfare benefits by every unorganised worker.

The Committee is confident that an unequivocal and conclusive definition of Unorganised Workers would facilitate creation of a national database of such workers as envisaged under Clause 113 of the Code and prevent unnecessary litigations.

Elements of social security

The Committee observed that ‘Social Security’ as defined in the Bill covers essential elements of Social Security — access to health care, Income security particularly in case of old age, unemployment schemes, coverage during inability to work due to injury, maternity or loss of breadwinner.

However, “the definition does not appear to be all encompassing as Superannuation and Insurance Schemes like Life Insurance, Medical Insurance, Accidental Insurance and Occupational Insurance do not find mention therein. Further, the provisions made for Social Security benefits are proposed to be extended through ‘Schemes’ framed under the Code and not through ‘relevant provisions’ of the Code on the plea of giving flexibility to the Government to frame Social Security Schemes.”

As of now, law prescribes payment of gratuity after five years of continuous service. As short duration employment was getting popular, the Committee felt that the time limit to be reduced to continuous service of one year. Such provision is extended to all kinds of employees including Contract Labours, Seasonal workers, piece rate workers and Fixed Term Employees and daily/monthly wage workers.

The Committee also said that the absence of a provision for unemployment insurance for the unorganised sector workers seems to be the biggest gap in the arrangements for social security schemes. Accordingly, it has suggested to the government to incorporate ‘Unemployment Insurance’ in the Code, for the unorganised sector workers.

Published on July 31, 2020

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