In a judgment that was hailed as being progressive throughout, the Supreme Court had in the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India directed the Transgender community to be formally recognized as the third sex and also to avail the benefits of socially and economically Backward Communities. However, in a proposal that seems to be a step in the backward direction, the Law Ministry has now reportedly objected to express recognition of transgender persons as the ‘third gender’ in the country’s labour law framework.
“We had proposed inserting clauses for recognizing the rights of transgender workers in all the four labour codes. However, the Law Ministry objected, citing the General Clauses Act of 1897, according to which ‘ transgenders ’ fall within the definition of ‘person’. It was then decided that there was no need to add a separate clause for them,” a senior Labour and Employment Ministry official told The Hindu.
“Now, because of the objections raised by the Law Ministry, we will not mention the term ‘transgender’ while stating the entitlements related to gender in any of the labour laws,” the official added.
The Code on Wages Bill, 2017 intends to rationalize the 38 Labour Acts by framing four labour codes viz. Code on Wages, Code on Industrial Relations, Code on Social Security and Code on occupational safety, health and working conditions. It subsumes four existing Laws, viz. the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. After the enactment of the Code, all these four Acts will get repealed.
As per a press release issued by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the new Code on Wages “will ensure minimum wages to one and all and timely payment of wages to all employees irrespective of the sector of employment without any wage ceiling”.
The release further clarifies that the Code on Wages Bill does not fix a uniform minimum wage for the entire country, and that the same will vary from place to place depending upon skill required, arduousness of the work assigned and geographical location. It has, however, introduced the concept of statutory National Minimum Wage for different geographical areas, to ensure that no State Government fixes the minimum wage below the National Minimum Wages for that particular area.
Besides, the release hails the proposed payment of wages through cheque or digital/ electronic mode, stating that it would not only promote digitization but also extend wage and social security to the worker.