To stop the harassment of women working in shops, restaurants and other commercial establishments, the Kerala government has decided to amend the Kerala Shops and Establishments Act, 1960.
The draft Bill, approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, now allows women to work night shifts, albeit with restrictions. According to the earlier Act, women are not allowed to work before 6 am and beyond 7 pm.
Under the amendment, establishment owners and employers will be directed to take care of the security of their women employees by ensuring a drop service at night.
The draft Bill also outlines rules for the employment of women. The BIll adds that they will be allowed to work only if there are at least five people in the shop/establishment during the night shift, out of whom two have to be women.
The term â€˜employeeâ€™ has been expanded to include security guards hired on a temporary basis as well.
Acknowledging complaints that many shops and establishments have no seating facilities, employers will now be held responsible for arranging proper seating for employees.
This clause also comes as a victory for women employees in Kerala, some of whom had gone on strike demanding better working conditions in 2013. Due to a lack of seating arrangements, female workers in the state were allowed to sit. They were also not allowed to go to the toilet during the course of their working day, which extends to more than 10 hours daily.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had on July 1, 2016, issued a notice to the Government of Kerala over the pathetic working conditions of female employees at textile retail shops in the state.
The draft Bill now seeks to change the long working hours, stating that the total working hours, including overtime, shall not exceed 10 hours in a day and employees will be given breaks after working for more than five continuous hours.