In view of rising cases of offences against women and with a view to prioritize the safety of working women, a need was felt to cover specific provisions pertaining to safety of women employed during night. Hence, the Government of Karnataka substituted section 25 of the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1961 by enacting Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments (Amendment) Act, 2020 effective 19th October 2020.
By virtue of the new provision, an obligation is cast on the establishments to take certain additional steps for the safety of women working during night shifts. Further, failure on the part of any establishment to comply with the said conditions shall lead to cancellation of the Registration Certificate issued to them under the Act.
The establishments need to comply with the following conditions with respect to women employed during night:
- The existing regulation stipulated under sections 7 (Daily and weekly hours), 8 (Extra wages for overtime work), 9 (Interval for rest), 10 (Spread over) and 12 (Weekly Holidays) of the Act shall continue to apply to the women employee working during night shifts
- Willingness of women employees shall be obtained in writing
- The establishment shall provide transport facilities from the residence of the woman employee to the workplace and back free of cost and with adequate security. Such transport facility shall have GPS for tracking and monitoring
- Employment of women employee shall be on a rotation basis
- An adequate number of security guards shall be posted during the night shift
- Sufficient restrooms, electricity, latrines lockers, dispensary facility and washing facilities with adequate water supply shall be provided separately for women employees so as to secure privacy
- The establishment shall bear the cost of crèche obtained by the women employees from voluntary or other organisations
- The establishment/service provider of establishment shall obtain Bio-data and conduct pre-employment screening of each driver.
- The schedule of route of pick-up and drop shall be decided by the supervisory office of the company only. In case of exigencies, change of drivers/ routes/shifts shall be allowed only with the prior knowledge of supervisory officers/employees;
- The telephone number, particularly mobile phone numbers email ID and address of the women employees shall not be disclosed to unauthorised persons;
- Careful selection of routes shall be made in such a way that no women employees shall be picked up first and dropped last;
- The company shall provide security guards at workplace and night shift vehicles when women employees are being picked up first or dropped last;
- The designated supervisors of the company or service provider shall randomly check the vehicles on various routes as for as possible;
- The establishment shall have a control room/travel desk for monitoring movement of vehicles;
- An App in mobile may be developed and adopted by the establishment through which the women employee can contact the concerned at the time of emergency by giving signal; and;
- Any other condition as may be prescribed.
It is a well appreciated move by the Government of Karnataka for the safety of women. However, some companies are of the view that it may add burden on the compliance and expenditure aspects of companies already suffering low profitability and high costs especially pursuant to the COVID crisis. Conditions such as provisions of separate rest rooms, bearing of cost of creche may increase the expenses of companies. Further requirements of obtaining written consent for willingness to work, supervisor of company to perform random checks, etc may increase work burden. The companies are constantly under fear of facing repercussions, as we witness a rise in number of complaints under laws such as sexual harassment laws.
Having said that, laws reinforcing women empowerment is the need of hour and enforcing the same by legislature is a healthy sign of a developed society and companies should act more responsibly and welcome such steps by practically taking all steps to ensure safety of women.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect position of any other agency, organisation, employer or company.