Covid 19 and the employment laws in India

Covid 19, also known as coronavirus, is described as a type of virus that can cause respiratory problems in humans when infected. The term coronavirus has been derived from a latin word ‘corona’, which means a ‘crown’ or a ‘wreath’. The coronavirus spreads from person to person during close contact through small droplets while coughing, sneezing or talking. Recent findings have suggested that the virus can also spread through air over a long distance. It causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) infecting the lungs. It is very contagious and can be caught even from the people who do not show any symptoms. The symptoms include fatigue, cough, fever, shortness of breath and even loss of smell. It can also spread by touching a contaminated surface or an object and then touching their face. There are still no vaccines or any known treatment found to recover from this virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared this outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30th January, 2020 and a pandemic on 11th March. The pandemic originated from Wuhan, China and was first identified in December 2019. It has slowly spread its wings all over the world and interrupted our lifestyles to a great extent. More than 16.9 million cases of coronavirus have been reported all over the world and deaths of more than 666000 have been recorded so far. But looking at the bright side, more than 9.91 million have recovered from this disease. Since there are no known treatments found, certain preventive measures are recommended that can help us with this outbreak. The measures include wearing a face mask ( which can prevent the droplets from spreading while talking, coughing or sneezing) in public, using hand gloves (that prevents us from touching a contaminated surface directly), maintaining a certain distance from people (minimum of one metre recommended), washing our hands more frequently, using hand sanitizer and last but not the least “Stay home, Stay safe” is advised to everyone. 

One should know how to protect themselves and the others from this pandemic and take necessary precautions. If someone has a fever and is having difficulty in breathing, they should contact the nearest health care provider for help. If someone has a history of travelling to one of the epidemic countries, they should self isolate themselves for a period of 14 days or get tested to be sure. In case a person is not wearing a mask, he/she should maintain a safe distance while talking and avoid touching their faces. A disposable tissue should always be used in case of coughing or sneezing. 

Covid 19 has greatly affected the educational institutions and every earning member of a society. It has hugely affected the economy from all over the world. It is considered as the largest global recession since the Great Depression. According to the Ministry of Statistics, India’s growth in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2020 decreased to 3.1%. India’s unemployment rate rose from 6.7% on 15th March, 2020 to 26% on 19th April, 2020. Since the lockdown, approximately 40 crore (140 million) people lost their job and salaries were reduced for numerous people. The startup businesses suffered due to a huge fall in their funding. Leading companies like the Aditya Birla Group, Tata Motors, Ultra Tech Cement have suspended their work temporarily. The Government of India has taken different initiatives in order to control the situation. The initiatives include supply of food, more funds for healthcare, extension of tax deadlines and different economic packages such as ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (seeing India as a self reliant nation) and Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan for the daily-wage workers (migrant labourers), who were left with no work in the midst of the lockdown.

Labour comes under the concurrent list of the Indian Constitution. Different labour laws have been created in favour of the labours keeping in mind about the welfare of the workers. The important laws are: Worker’s Compensation Act, 1923 - This act acts as an insurance to the employees. It provides salary replacement and medical benefits for the employee, if he/she gets injured in the course of employment. If the insurance is denied, he/she can take action against their employers by suing them. The Trade Unions Act, 1926 - This act provides the registration for the Trade Unions. With the help of this act, grievances of the employees can be represented in front of the employers. This acts as a protection of the employees against the exploitation of their employers. The Payment of Wages Act, 1936 - This act helps the employees with their regular payment of wages and prevents them from any unnecessary deductions from their wages. According to this act, an employee should receive their salary within 7th of every month if the workforce is limited to 1000, and 10th of every month in other cases. Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 - This act was created to explain the terms and conditions of employment. In case of any disagreement, this law acts as the collective voice for the employees. It also ensures the conditions of service. Indian Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Industrial disputes include differences between one employer with another employer or one employee with another employee or between an employer and an employee. With the help of this act, all the disputes can be settled through negotiations. Minimum Wages Act, 1948 - This act gives both the central and the state government the authority to fix a minimum wage for the workers. If any wages paid to the employees are found to be less than the fixed minimum wage, it would be considered as forced labour. This act makes sure that the employees can meet their basic needs and have enough to support their families. Other acts include:

  • Factories Act, 1948
  • Maternity Benefits Act, 1961
  • Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
  • MRTU and PULP Act, 1971
  • The Payments of Gratuity Act, 1972
  • Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2009
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013

In the wake of Covid 19, many of these labour laws have been relaxed in favour of the employers and the investors to boost the economy, but it can lead to the violation of the laws. These laws help the employees to work in a safe and secure environment.

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