This will help employers keep a track of the diseases workers could suffer from while doing their jobs.
Somesh Jha reports.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
The Centre has proposed to make it compulsory for companies to conduct health checks of factory workers every year.
This is part of a draft code on occupational safety, health and working conditions, put forward by the ministry of labour and employment.
The government is trying to merge and reclassify the country's 44 labour laws into four broad codes -- one each on industrial relations, wages, social security, and occupational safety, health and working conditions.
The Centre has already proposed the first three and these are at various stages of approval.
"We believe annual health check-ups will lead to higher productivity in a factory. Beside, the Centre has been empowered to prescribe standards on occupational safety and health. We might mandate compulsory health check-ups for all workers above the age of 40 years," says a senior ministry official.
The charge will be borne by employers, the official added.
The move will help employers keep a track of the diseases workers could suffer from while doing their jobs.
In the latest proposed code, the government has sought to merge 13 labour laws.
These include the Factories Act, 1948; the Mines Act, 1952; the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996; and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970.
The proposed code -- the first single legislation prescribing standards for working conditions, health and safety of workers -- is sought to apply for factories with at least 10 workers.
"The penalty for contravention of labour laws go to court at present. We have now suggested the court may direct employers to give at least 50 per cent of the penalty amount to victims or their legal heirs," the ministry official points out.
According to another proposal, employers will have to give appointment letters to a worker at the time of joining.
In the absence of such legal documents, workers often find it difficult to establish proof of employment, giving companies room to violate labour laws and ignore social security benefits.
"Employers need to give appointment letters to even those employed before the proposed code comes into effect," an official said.
Trade unions are examining the draft law.
Some contend the Centre has tried to dilute safety-related provisions in the Factories Bill, 2014, that was eventually put on the back-burner.
"We need to see how the proposed law is in sync with the ILO (International Labour Organisation) conventions on worker safety, yet to be ratified by our government. However, making annual health check-up and appointment letters mandatory are welcome. It will help establish workers as employees of an organisation and make them understand their rights. Often, employers deprive them of their rights as they are not shown on payrolls," says Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh President C K Saji Narayanan.
As part of the code, companies hiring at least 10 workers will have to register once, instead of going for separate registrations under labour laws for construction, contracts, plantations, migrant and factory workers.
A National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board, to be chaired by the labour and employment secretary, have also been proposed. Multiple committees under the present five labour Acts will come under the board.