The Karnataka government today issued a notification allowing women to work in night shifts (7 pm to 6 am) in all factories registered under the factories act.
The state government has in the notification cited a Madras High Court judgment striking down Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948 which prohibited women working in night shifts, and certain conditions laid down by it.
"The employer shall be at liberty to employ women workers as a whole or in part during night shift, provided, the directions be complied with," the notification reads, listing conditions.
The employer shall send a fortnightly report to Inspector of Factories about the details of employees engaged during night shifts and also send express report whenever there is some untoward incident, to the Inspector of Factories and local police station as well, it said.
The notification also clarifies that "It shall not be made compulsory or obligatory for any women worker to work in night shifts. Written consent shall be obtained from the women workers who are interested to work in night shifts."
The Chief Inspector may by an order withdraw the permission issued by the notification to any factory, if any or all the conditions laid down in the notification are not followed, in the interest of safety and security of the women workers who come forward to work in night shifts, it said.
Labour Minister Suresh Kumar recently said during his meeting with industries' representatives the latter had asked for permission to employ women at shop floors and for night shifts.
The government had said it will look into the pros and cons and also hold discussion with the Law department before taking a decision.
As of now, women are allowed to work night shifts only in the IT and IT-enabled service sectors in the state.
With this notification, women will allowed to work during night in other sectors including manufacturing.
Listing the conditions, the government has said it shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons at work places to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, statement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.
The notification states that the employer shall provide proper lighting and CCTV coverage not only inside the factory, but also surroundings of the factory and to all places where women workers may move out of necessity in the course of such shift. CCTV footage shall be stored for not less than 45 days.
The employers shall see that the women workers are employed in a batch of not less than 10 and the total of women workers employed in a night shift shall not be less than two-thirds of the total strength.
It also states that the employer shall provide transportation facility for women workers from their residence and back (for night shift) and security guards (including female security guard) and each transportation vehicle shall also be equipped with CCTV camera.
It says the employer or persons in charge of factory shall take steps to prevent sexual harassment in any form. The rules or regulations shall be framed by the factory managements relating to conduct and discipline prohibiting sexual harassment and provide for appropriate penalties in such rules against the offenders.
In case of any criminal case, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with the penal law without delay and also ensure that victims or witness are not victimized or discriminated.
The employer shall maintain a complaint redressal mechanism in the factory itself and it shall ensure time-bound treatment of complaint.
According to the notification, the female employees shall be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment to workers at the workers' meeting and other appropriate forums.
They shall be made aware of their rights in particular by prominently notifying the guidelines on the subject.
Among others, the notification states that there shall be not less than 12 consecutive hours of rest or gap between the last shift and the night shift wherever a women worker is changed from day shift to night and vice versa.