New Model Standing Orders to Safeguard Workers’ Rights and Employment Conditions

Journal Press: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world in unprecedented ways, and its impact on the labour industry has been significant. The pandemic brought to light the need for updating and revising the existing law to address new challenges and concepts, such as work from home. The Indian Ministry of Labour and Employment has taken a step towards this by drafting Model Standing Orders (MSO) for industrial establishments, based on the Industrial Relations (IR) Code, 2020.

Model Standing Orders
Model Standing Orders

The objective of the Model Standing Orders (MSO) is to provide a guide to employers for drafting standing orders for their establishment and safeguard the fundamental rights of workers. The MSO will standardize matters related to employment and create industry harmony in the country.

This article provides an in-depth analysis of model standing orders in industrial establishments. It explains the need to revise and update the MSO, their key features, and MSO for the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors, among other things.

Understanding the Model Standing Orders

A model standing order is a set of rules, regulations, and obligations drafted by the Central Government to regulate the conditions of employment of workers in industrial establishments. Section 15 of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, conferred the power of making standing orders on the government. It prescribed matters to be included in the Schedule, the procedure to be followed for modifying standing orders certified under the Act, the certification of officers and appellate authorities, and the fee that can be charged for copies of standing orders.

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Under the new IR Code, 2020, Section 29 confers the Central Government with the power to make model standing orders relating to the terms and conditions of employment of workers. The Model Standing Orders (MSO) includes matters such as work timings, holidays, paydays, wage rates, working in shifts, leave, attendance, work from home, transfers, grievance redressal and complaints, among other things.

The employer is mandated to prepare draft standing orders for their establishment based on the MSO in reference to matters specified in the First Schedule. Before making a draft of Model Standing Orders (MSO), the employer shall consult with the trade unions or recognise the negotiating union relating to the establishment and forward the draft of standing orders electronically or physically to the certifying officer for certification.

When an employer adopts a Model Standing Orders (MSO) for their establishment, they shall forward the information regarding the same to the concerned certifying officer, and such an MSO is deemed to be certified. These model standing orders apply to all industrial establishments having 300 or more workers who are working in establishments covered under the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2020, in different states and union territories of India.

Key Features of the Model Standing Orders

The Model Standing Orders classifies workers into six categories, which include permanent workers, probationary workers, badli workers, casual labourers, temporary workers, and apprentices. The MSO sets specific rules, regulations, and obligations for each of these categories based on their employment conditions.

The Model Standing Orders mandates that the employer shall ensure the welfare of the workers and provide them with hygienic surroundings, adequate ventilation, lighting, and drinking water facilities. The employer shall also conduct medical examinations of all workers before employment and at regular intervals, provide protective equipment to all workers, and ensure their safety while working.

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The Model Standing Orders (MSO) also sets rules and regulations regarding work timings, overtime, and rest intervals. The employer shall ensure that the workers work not more than nine hours a day and forty-eight hours a week. The employer shall also provide a weekly holiday, prevent workers from working on holidays, and provide rest intervals of at least half an hour to one hour.

Model Standing Orders (MSO) for Manufacturing, Mining, and Service Sectors

The MSO for manufacturing and mining sectors deals with the conditions of employment specific to these sectors. The MSO for manufacturing sector states that the employer shall provide uninterrupted work for the workers and adhere to a specific code of conduct. As per the MSO for mining sector, the employer shall ensure the registration of all workers, provide them with adequate protective gear, and ensure their safety while working in mines.

The Model Standing Orders for service sector deals with the conditions of employment specific to the service sector. The MSO states that the employer shall ensure customer satisfaction, follow a code of conduct, and encourage workers to provide prompt and efficient services.

Conclusion

The Model Standing Orders (MSO) came into existence with some advanced features to address new challenges and concepts in today’s world. However, many features were retained from the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, as well. The MSO is a step towards safeguarding the fundamental rights of workers and creating industry harmony in the country. The MSO will provide a guide to employers for drafting standing orders for their establishment and standardize matters related to employment. The MSO will also ensure that the workers, employees, and employers know their rights and obligations regarding holidays, work timings, wages, paydays, etc.