In a relief for private employers, the Supreme Court today said no coercive action can be taken till the end of July against private employers who have not paid wages to workers during the coronavirus lockdown.
The top court said states must facilitate negotiations between employees and employers over wage payment, and file their reports with the labour commissioners concerned.
The centre has been given four more weeks by the Supreme Court to file a reply on the legality of the March 29 notification that had ordered mandatory payment of full wages during the lockdown.
The Union Home Ministry, in its circular in March, had asked all employers to make payment of wages to their workers without any deduction for the period their establishments were under closure during the lockdown to contain COVID-19.
"It cannot be disputed that the industry and labourers need each other. Efforts should be made to sort out disputes regarding payment of wages for 50 days," a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah said while passing the orders.
The top court said those who are willing to work should be allowed to work, notwithstanding the disputes regarding wages.
The top court bench posted 18 petitions - filed by the Small Scale Industrial Manufacturers Association and companies such as Ludhiana Hand Tools Association, Ficus Pax and others - against the March 29 circular, for further hearing in last week of July.
The petitioners had blamed the government of passing such orders "without due care and deliberation on the financial implications for the employers".
The centre had argued that the Home Ministry notification was to "mitigate financial hardships" of crores of workers and that it had been withdrawn, with the employers having to pay wages for only 54 days.