Factories Act came into force on 01.04.1949. The Preamble of the Factories Act, 1948 states that it is an act to consolidate and amend the law regulating labour in factories. This Act specifically takes care of the well-being, health and safety, basic provisions of working hours, holidays, lighting and ventilation i.e. lays down the provisions for welfare of the workers employed in a factory.
Keeping in mind the special requirements of women, special provisions with respect to women and children like maternity leave, Partition, separate space etc. has been provided under the Act. Chapters like Health, Safety, Provisions relating to Hazardous Processes, welfare, working hours, Annual leave provisions, Special provisions have been laid down to make it a comprehensive Act and to deal with even the tiniest need of the worker employed into the factory.
Factories Act ordinarily lays down provisions for all adult (Whether male or female) adolescents, child worker (child not below 14 yrs.) in various respects. The facilities and provisions enacted in general are for every worker but few provisions had been specifically laid down for female workers. Those all provisions relating to women in Factories Act are mentioned below:
PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO HEALTH OF WORKERS
Under Section 19(1)(b) of the Act, there’s a provision of separate enclosed accommodation (for latrines and urinals) for both males and females. Such Accommodation should be adequately lighted and ventilated
PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO SAFETY OF WORKERS
For Safety of the Women Workers in the Factory, women workers are excepted from the work of lubrication of machinery in motion. It shall be done only by a specially trained adult male worker wearing tight-fitting clothing.
Section 22(2) of the Act specifically mandates on the factory owner that no woman or young person shall be allowed to clean, lubricate or adjust any part of the machinery when it is in motion. This Provision aims to prevent the women from exposure to dangerous injury that can be caused by such moving part.
Under Section 27 of the Act, there is a prohibition of employment of women and children near “cotton openers”. Women and children cannot be employed in any part of the factory where pressing of Cotton are going on subject to only one exception. The Exception is the Area between the feed end and delivery end extends to a particular height and subject to the permission of Inspector authorized under the Act.
Under Section 34, This Act gives power to state Govt. to prescribe rules regarding the maximum weight which can be lifted, carried or moved by men, women, adolescents and children in the Factory. It’s a statutory mandate that nobody shall be employed to carry a weight which can cause them an injury.
PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO WELFARE OF WORKERS
For the welfare of the women worker, under Section 42 of the Act, separate and adequately screen facilities for washing shall be provided for the privacy of female workers.
Under Section 48 of the Act, wherever there are more than 30 women workers, there is a mandate on the owner of the factory to provide and maintain suitable room/crèche facility for the use of children under the age of 6 years of such mothers. This Provision indirectly increases the efficiency of female worker who can side by side look after their children without worrying about them. Those rooms should provide adequate accommodation, ventilation, lighting and such rooms should be under the charge of a women who can take care of such children.
PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO WORKING HOURS
Under Section 66 of the Act, For the safety and well-being of the Female gender, their working hours in a factory shall be between 6 A.M. to 7 P.M. only. It is also provided in this Section that there shall be no change of shifts except after a weekly holiday or other Holiday.
Further in Sub Section 2 of Section 66 mentions that the State Government can prescribe Special Provisions for fish curing or fish canning factories where employment of women beyond particular hours is necessary to prevent damage to any raw material.
PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO EMPLOYMENT OF YOUNG PERSONS
Under Section 70 of the Act, Any Adolescent female or male worker who has got the fitness certificate to work can only work between 6 A.M. to 7 P.M. except in case of few categories of factories where State Govt. can relax the timings but in no case, it can be in between 10 PM to 5 AM.
Under Section 71(5) No female child shall be allowed to work in any factory except between 8 AM to 7 PM.
PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO ANNUAL LEAVE WITH WAGES
Section 79 (1) Explanation 1 says that Every female worker who has worked for a period of 240 days or more in a factory shall be allowed leave with wages and in case of a female worker, maternity leave upto 12 weeks.
Under Section 87(b) of the Act, Power to the State Government is given that if it opined that any manufacturing process or operation carried in any factory exposes any person to a serious risk of bodily injury, it may prohibit or restrict the employment of women, adolescents or children in such manufacturing process or operation.
Above mentioned bare act provisions in labour welfare legislation clearly cater the needs of Women gender so as they can work comfortably. In this Era of Women Empowerment, when every social element, be it, govt. at any level, private institutions, NGO’s, Media etc. are trying their best to help women in every possible way. From raising voice against discrimination against women to equal opportunities in every field, from equal pay to equal work to shared responsibility in household works, from understanding their needs of refreshment to their choice of living their life as they wish to; in every sphere, one can witness the progress of women as a community.
On similar lines, Special Provisions for women are enacted in every beneficial piece of legislation for empowering women as a whole, for encouraging them to do better in an efficient way, flexible working hours, protection from dangerous maintenance work, crèche facilities, maternity lives so that their motherhood does not become an obstacle in their paths and many such provisions like these serve the need of the hour.
This article has been written by Neha Gupta Kaushik, Advocate.