The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a garment factory in Chennai to pay pension to women who worked from home in the 1990s. As Thomson Reuters reports, this can be a major step in providing relief to the women workers who went invisible when it came to pensions only because they worked from home. This will also help them access other staff benefits.

The case dates back to 1991 when the government first issued notices accusing Godavari Garments of defaulting on payments to the Employees’ Provident Fund, India’s state-run pension fund.

No Employee Status To Women Who Work From Home: A Common Tradition In Garment Factories

The women who work from home are not given an employee status, neither are they eligible for any staff benefits only because they work from home. This has been a common practice in garment factories. The Supreme Court ordered Godavari Garments Limited to make pension payments of more than one million Indian rupees ($14,491) to the women it employed within a month, saying that the fact that they worked from home doesn’t make them ineligible for the pension.

Though the garment factories employ around 12 million people in factories, millions more work from home and they are deprived of employee status. “This is a very welcome decision because it acknowledges the home as a workplace and women working from home as employees. Acknowledgment of the employer-employee relationship will have a far-reaching impact on ensuring social security and benefits for millions of such workers,” said Shalini Sinha, a specialist with the global network Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising.

The case dates back to 1991 when the government first issued notices accusing Godavari Garments of defaulting on payments to the Employees’ Provident Fund, India’s state-run pension fund. The garment factory then reverted saying that in case of women who work from home, the work could have been done by anyone and hence, they cannot be given the status of an employee. However, the court then rejected this argument saying that since the company had the right to reject the work it didn’t like, it did have supervisory control. Moreover, the number of women working from home especially in the garment sector is increasing. Hence, this can prove to be of great help to them.

A number of revelations have come to light in the past few days from the garment factories in Tamil Nadu, directing that the workers literally live a pathetic life while working there.

Pathetic Condition Of Women Workers In Garments Factory

A number of revelations have come to light in the past few days from the garment factories in Tamil Nadu, directing that the workers literally live a pathetic life while working there. Few days ago, a female worker broke into tears while narrating her story on a radio show. The factory she works in has only two washrooms for 200 workers. While waiting in queue for her turn, she was forced to use a corner of the mill where waste cotton is discarded. Her turn to use the washroom didn’t turn up.

Not only this, but the workers have to compromise with their health too while working in the garments factory. A Thomson Reuters Foundation report recently exposed the pitiful condition that the seamstresses have to go through while working in the garment industry in Tamil Nadu. While the women working in the factory couldn’t afford to lose on wages because of periods, they were given medicines, which were without any name or expiry dates. The real problem, however, came forward when many of them reported negative side effects of the medicine on their menstruation cycle. Women usually sought medicine from the factory supervisor.

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