One of the clauses in the draft of the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Bill in Bihar suggests night shift for women employees. The bill also states that women employees can only be assigned night shifts through their written consent.
This bill is proposed by the Labour Resourced Department of Bihar. The draft of the bill has been posted on the website of the department for feedbacks. In the draft, the department proposes that women employees can work night shifts at factories and firms. Although the employers will need the written consent of the women employees wanting to do so.
In addition to that, the employers will need to ensure safety and security for women employees, who agree to the night shift.
Night Shifts Women Employees: What Does The State Say?
According to the National General Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association Mina Tiwari plans on “women empowerment” should be made in accordance with the state of women safety in the State. Even if the bill requires a woman to give her consent for the night shift, Tiwari asked what if the employers do not follow it.
Tiwari said, “…no woman will be able to refuse the orders of the boss for fear of losing her job.” Also, the bill can be used to exploit women instead. She said that it should be dropped and night shifts might also affect the family lives of the women employees as many might face resentment over such arrangements. “More and more women are now working and families are coping with the new lifestyle. But night shifts might not be acceptable,” she said.
Adding to her previous statements, she said that it is alright for women in essential services to pull a night shift but “not acceptable” for many others.
Speaking with Hindustan Times, Sumita Shahi, who is an entrepreneur said that women will be expected to handle the household chores too. She also questioned the timings, “Is it possible for a woman to work night shifts and sleep during day time? Who will take care of children and other family members?”
In 2020, the Central government had similar labour rules to ensure women safety during night shifts. The drafts were part of the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Condition Act, 2020. The night shift, after 7 PM could only be allotted to women employees on the basis of their written consent, The Print reported.
However, this was not a blanket bill as not all states had to follow or allow women to work night shifts. They were given the liberty of adapting it the way it suited the work environment in states and the condition of women safety.
On February 1, 2021, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced that women can work night shifts with adequate safety, in all sectors. The announcement also included employers providing transportation for women employees.