And the coincidental conversation with MadMan
To our surprise, MadMan told us last night that the reason why there are few waitresses working in restaurants in India is because of labour laws that prohibit women from working late. That’s one more example of how laws aimed at ‘protecting’ women actually end up discriminating against them. It appears that we were not the only ones discussing this law last night.
Meeting a longstanding demand for gender parity in the workforce, the Centre today approved an amendment in the Factories Act to allow women employees to work late-night shifts with employers providing adequate safeguards at workplace and while commuting.
The amendment, allowing women to work between 10 pm and 6 am, will benefit those working in special economic zones, textiles and IT sector (specially call centres) as it includes a rider that these timings shall be allowed only if the employer ensures safety.
The flexible timings shall be allowed â€˜â€˜provided adequate safeguards in the factory as regards occupational safety and health, equal opportunity for women workers, adequate protection of their dignity, honour and safety and their transportation from the factory premises to the nearest point of their residenceâ€™â€™ are made, said Information & Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy.[IE]
While the Cabinet’s decision marks some progress, it clearly does not go far enough. Thanks to this law, women end up facing the consequences of the government’s inability to both prevent their ill-treatment at work and security during the commute. Whatever the intent, the net effect of the law is not quite different from say, Saudi Arabian injunctions against working women.
The Cabinet’s concerns about occupational safety and health, protection of dignity, honour and safety of women working the night-shifts sounds admirable, but these are things that all employers must ensure at all times for all employees.
The longer these discriminatory provisions stay on the statute books, the longer will the government be able to evade its responsibility in ensuring that Indian streets and offices are safe for half of its population. Besides, Shiok fine-dining restaurant could do with the balance that would come with some fine waitresses.