“Night shift workers are more prone to get breast cancer. 

Working at night when pregnant increases the risk of adverse perinatal outcomes.” 

These are only two examples of the many justifications that have, for many years, prevented women from working during night. Understanding of the bias towards women who work night shifts, a contemporary analysis of the laws controlling women’s night shift employment in various sectors is the need of the hour. 

The female labour force participation in India has declined from around 30 percent in 1990 to 19 percent in 2020. It was pointed out by a (GE South Asia and Avtar) research in 2021 that women account for only 12 percent of the 27.3 million labour force working in the manufacturing sector. 

While society has been apprehensive about women working during night shifts, there are professions which employ women for night shift jobs. With the onset of globalisation, the number of women working night shifts in call centres, export-oriented businesses, information technology (IT), and IT-enabled services (ITES) has increased. Despite the fact that no sufficient safeguards were provided to them, some of them volunteered to opt for night shift owing to personal, mainly financial, reasons (Padmanabhan,2000) 

However, the factories law restricted women from working in factories at night citing safety issues. The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSHWC) Code 2020 allows state governments to lift the night shift ban for women in factories with employers providing safe and secure workplaces. 

Following the OSHWC Code 2020, 24 states, including Kerala, have published draft rules to incorporate labour reforms. The Kerala government has drafted rules that allows the female employees to work in night shifts with their consent, if their employers abide by maternity benefit provisions stated in the Social Security Code, 2020 and will have access to separate restrooms and other facilities like adequate transportation facilities, among others. 

However, it should be noted that nearly one-third of the twenty-four rules drafted in connection with the night employment of women are provisions relating to sexual harassment. Such elaborated provisions are a duplication of what is already mandated under The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013. 

The rules also specify that a minimum of two out of five workers engaged during night shifts to be women. For an employer to engage 100 employees in a night shift, he has to have 40 women to comply with rules. The practicality of such hard and fast rules seems difficult when the State has low female participation in the factory sector. Further, the rule mandates the employer to have women supervisors, if women are engaged in night shifts. The proportion of women supervisors is one for every three supervisors. The minimum numbers and proportions in the above provisions would affect the decision of employers while hiring women workers. This may lead to an inadvertent consequence of recruiting men over women for night hours due cost and regulations involved. Thereby, the safety regulations must be bare minimum and be more practical and implementation-oriented, on part of both the employers and the employees. 

An IMF study(Gonzales et al. 2015) shows that legislation permitting women’s night shift work has a positive impact on women’s employment in various areas(Adnane and Hamel n.d.). This reduces occupational segregation and increases opportunities

for women in job markets, thereby contributing to economic growth. A study conducted by (Islam et al.) found that in a legal environment in which women’s night work is allowed as much as men’s, has shown a rise by 4.1 percentage points in the probability of having a female top managerial position. Moreover, our stakeholder interactions with employers have shown that introducing women into the factory workforce has reported a more disciplined work environment and better productivity. 

As the global economy evolves and strives to be more gender inclusive, the lifting of night shift restrictions on women in factories with minimum regulations can result in a better FWPR across industries and factories in Kerala. 

This was first published on 04 Dec 2022 in ‘ Samayam Malayalam’ Read it here

 

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

Anu Maria Francis
Associate, Research | + posts

Anu Maria Francis is an Associate, Research at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). She completed her graduation in Law from National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi. She has worked as UPSC exam trainer and mentor with many coaching institutions in Kerala. She has also interned with a couple of organisations like Kerala State Information Commission, ACTIONAID India, Ceat Tyres Ltd, Biocon Pharma Ltd, Khaitan and Co Law Firm etc. Her academic interests pertain to legal and governance issues and education. She also has experience in handling business ventures.

Anu Maria Francis
Anu Maria Francis
Anu Maria Francis is an Associate, Research at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). She completed her graduation in Law from National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi. She has worked as UPSC exam trainer and mentor with many coaching institutions in Kerala. She has also interned with a couple of organisations like Kerala State Information Commission, ACTIONAID India, Ceat Tyres Ltd, Biocon Pharma Ltd, Khaitan and Co Law Firm etc. Her academic interests pertain to legal and governance issues and education. She also has experience in handling business ventures.

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