Even as the government may make a provision for companies to offer four working days a week to employees in the upcoming rules under the labour code, the limit of 48 working hours per week is likely to continue - entailing 12-hour work days.
With an aim to rationalise and simplify 29 different laws governing the labour force in the country, the government brought about the labour reform codes - Code on Wages, 2019, and Industrial Relations Code, Code on Social Security and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code in 2020.
While the Code of Wages was passed by the Parliament in 2019 and notified in the same year, the other three were ratified by the Parliament last year. The rules are now being framed under the laws. The government had published the draft rules of the four codes earlier this year, seeking stakeholder comments. It now plans to roll out the labour reforms in the beginning of the next financial year.
Even as the rules under the laws are being framed by both the Centre and state governments, as labour is in the concurrent list, a source close to the development told Fortune India, “The rules may allow four-day working week to the employees. However, there will be no change in the limit of 48 working hours per week.”
Experts, meanwhile, question the feasibility of the move. Dorothy Thomas, partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, tells Fortune India, “India is attempting to replicate the Scandinavian model of 4-day week structure. However, by not reducing the 48- hour cap, the practicability of the implementation is questionable. We still await clarity on the rules of new working hours and its implementation.”
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh – the labour wing of the Rashtriya Swanyamsewak Sangh – is also skeptical of the four-day-a-week rule. A top BMS functionary tells Fortune India that even the current five-day-per-week rule is not implemented across the board.
It may be noted that as per the Factories Act, 1948 – one of the labour laws that will get subsumed by the code is - no adult worker is “required or allowed to work in a factory for more than forty-eight hours in any week.”
One of the newly introduced labour codes, however, specifies the norm as "not more than eight working hours in a day." According to the Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020, “No worker shall be required or allowed to work, in any establishment or class of establishment for more than eight hours in a day and the period of work in each day shall be so fixed, as not to exceed such hours.”
So even though the government is in favour of the 48-hour norm per week from the old law, the new law specifies not more than eight working hours in a day. The labour ministry will have to clarify how it plans to achieve four working days in a week, while adhering to the hourly norms.