The Union Cabinet and the Lok Sabha have passed the amendment to Sections 64[1] and section 65[2] and noteworthy section 115 of the Factories Act, 1948 (Act) through the Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (hereinafter referred to as “Bill”). The Bill is currently pending before the Rajya Sabha[3]. The amending provisions increase the number of overtime hours of work at a factory. The Bill empowers the central government and the state government (as the case may be) as “Prescribed” authorities to be read under Sections 2[4], 64 and 65 respectively. Following are the key highlights of the Bill:

  • The “Prescribed” Authority will be empowered to make rules on various matters including inter alia double employment, details of adult workers to be included in the factory’s register and conditions that are related to freedom to certain workers, etc.
  • Under the Act, no rule made under Section 64 could apply after five years of their passing. However, the bill modifies this standpoint removing the five year limitation for any exempting rule issued under Section 64.
  • Additionally, the Central and State Governments have been bestowed with powers to make rules for exemption of workers. The Governments may pass rules to define persons who may hold confidential or management positions and exempt workers engaged in the task of making urgent repairs from straightjacketed working hours or periods of rest etc.
  • The “Prescribed” authorities can make rules regarding overtime hours that earlier could not exceed 50 hours a quarter to now not exceed 100 hours a quarter. Also, if the factory has exceptionally heavy work load, the Bill permits the “Prescribed” authorities to change the upper limit of overtime hours of adult workers from 75 hours to 115 hours for every quarter.
  • The “Prescribed” authorities may extend the 115 hour bracket to 125 hours if the situation calls for it due to extreme work load or if it is required to meet public interest.  

The object of the Act is to ensure suitable care measures and to promote the health and prosperity of the workers. It is pertinent to note that no worker will be allowed to work overtime, for more than seven days at a stretch.  Further, even with all the proposed changes, the Bill has increased the overtime hours without contravening the International Labour Organization standards that prescribe a quarterly upper limit of 144 hours of overtime.[5]