From mansplaining colleagues who refuse to quit to the little boys’ club where promotions happen, the hurdles women face at work are many. Unequal pay, casual sexist remarks, and unsafe workspaces are just a few others to name. While the utopia of equality in the workplace is a far-fetched dream for women, there are certain rights that are put in place to ensure that women are safe in their offices.
With a large number of women returning to offices, it’s imperative for us to be aware of our rights. Even if you’re working in a work-from-home setup, these rights hold true.
5 women’s workplace rights that ensure a holistic work environment
1. Prohibition of sexual harassment at work
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013 was enacted to ensure better safety of women in the workplace. The act provides the outline of a complaint mechanism that is to be set up by the office to facilitate smoother redressal of women’s concerns. The act lays down provisions for the organisation of an ICC (Internal Complaints Committee) that takes care of such matters.
When a woman faces harassment, abuse, or violence at work, she can take up the matter with the committee within 3 months of the abuse happening. Once the committee receives the complaint, they must resolve the issue within 90 days. During this period, the complainant can ask to be transferred to another workplace, or take a leave of upto 3 months. The committee must also provide assistance if the woman chooses to file a police complaint.
The Act also has a provision for monetary compensation which can be deducted from the accused’s salary if found guilty.
2. Maternity benefits
Article 42 of the Constitution lays down the rules for provisions of safe working conditions for pregnant women. The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 envisages that pregnant women must be paid a maternity benefit of 6 weeks from the day of delivery (in some institutions). All pregnant women are entitled to a paid leave of 26 weeks if they have worked at the said organisation for at least 80 days. Additionally, a pregnant woman cannot be fired during her maternity leave.
The Act applies to unmarried women also, and allows for a leave of 45 days in case of miscarriages.
3. Law for factory workers
The Factories Act of 1948 lays down the provisions to regulate labour and their working conditions in the factories. By extension, the law also envisages the rights of women working in factories. As per the Act, women workers must have separate washrooms, cannot be made to work for more than 48 hours a week, or be asked to work for more than 5 hours at a stretch. The law also limits the amount of weight a woman can be asked to lift, among other tasks like oiling machinery or cleaning any moving parts of the same.
Since factories are highly unregulated, the Act also prescribes the working conditions for night-shift workers including occupational safety and protection between 7:00 pm and 6:00 am.
4. Law for equal pay
While women all over the world are battling the issue of unequal pay, there is an Article in the Constitution that envisages equal pay for both men and women. As per Article 39, if the nature of work done by men and women is similar and equal, they should have equal remuneration.
As per the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, every worker must be paid the minimum wage prescribed in the Act. This Act also ensures that an equal minimum wage must be paid to women, irrespective of what is decided in a verbal contract.
5. Protection from discrimination in employment and promotion
As per the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, an employer cannot discriminate against an individual purely on the basis of their sex. Remember this Act when your sexist colleague tries to dissuade you from working for that promotion. If the work is of similar nature, men and women are to be treated equally for promotions, transfers, training, or recruitment.
Being aware of our rights and seeking timely redressal is one of the initial steps towards attaining more secure and equal workspaces.
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