The Cheat Sheet

Standing Orders: Rules defining employment conditions

Shishir Sinha | Updated on January 20, 2021

The Government is getting ready to implement labour reforms. For this, the four labour codes — Wages, Industrial Relations, Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions, and Social Security — were enacted. Then, the rules were drafted and, finally, the Draft Standing Orders have been issued.

While the first two steps prescribe legislative and sub-ordinate legislative provisions related with labour, the third prescribes a legal system for the relationship between the employer and a workman and describes elements such as classification of workers, working hours, attendance, suspension, termination, etc.

What is so unique this time?

Keeping in view the needs of the services sector, a separate Model Standing Orders for Service Sector has been prepared for the first time. It will be applicable for all units employing at least 300 workers. As ‘Work from Home’ is the new normal, this concept has been formalised in these orders.

Accordingly, it has been said: “Subject to conditions of appointment or agreement between employer and workers, the employer may allow a worker to work from home for such period or periods as may be determined by the employer.” Also, even if working from home, all the workers will be at work for the time fixed and they will comply with the regulations related to hours of work.

Another new feature is one additional type of misconduct for the services sector, and that is “involvement in unauthorised access of any IT system, computer network of the employer/customer/client.” Apart from this, there are 22 similar types of misconducts for service, manufacturing and mining. These include sleeping on duty, claiming false bill for reimbursement, habitual late attendance and habitual absence without leave or without sufficient cause and leaving work without permission or sufficient reason beside others.

Disciplinary action can be taken in case of any such misconduct. Under Model Standing Orders for Mining Sector, facility of rail travel has been prescribed for all miners and not just for those working in coal mines.

Accordingly, every worker who has completed 12 months’ continuous service would qualify for railway fare or bus fare or both for going home on leave and returning to the mine on the expiry of the leave.

What are common?

Uniformity has been maintained in all the three model orders while providing some flexibility considering the sector-specific requirements. All these orders encourage the employer to use information technology in dissemination of information to the workers through electronic mode. One key feature in all the three is the definition of ‘habitual’ with respect to indiscipline — that is, if the worker is found guilty of any misconduct three or more times in the preceding 12 months.

Another common feature in the three model orders is ‘category of workers’. Workers have been categorised into six – Permanent, Temporary, Apprentices, Probationers, Badlis (appointed temporarily in place of absent permanent worker) and Fixed Term Employment.

How will they be implemented?

Where an employer adopts a Model Standing Order of the Central Government with respect to matters relevant to his industrial establishment or undertaking, then such model order shall be deemed to have been certified. The Model Standing Orders adopted in respect of an industrial establishment shall also be applicable to all other industrial units of the industrial establishment irrespective of location.

What next?

Based on views received and discussion with stakeholders, the Standing Orders will be finalised next month so that it can be implemented, along with the Codes, in all likelihood from April 1 or even before.

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Published on January 20, 2021

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