The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act (herein after referred as “the Act or said Act) was enacted in the year 1946 and the scope of extent includes whole of India. The said Act is applicable to all the industrial establishments which employ or had employed hundred or more workmen during a year. However, the Appropriate Government after issuing notification in its official gazette extend the provisions of this act to any industrial employment employing less than hundred workers or the number specified in the notice during a year.
The main object of the Act is to bring in uniform terms and conditions of service in various industrial establishments. Such uniform terms of employment ensure to the employer that once such terms are implemented, the employed workmen cannot change them to their detriment or prejudice of their rights and interest. Such Standing Orders or terms of services act as express or written condition or statutory guidelines for the aspiring workmen to accept the same before joining the industrial establishment. The Standing orders also function as a bulwark to maintain peace and stability in the industrial establishment and promotes efficiency and productivity.
Standing orders are thus, a set of rules pertaining to the subjects mentioned in the schedule to the Act. The Standing orders are to be certified from a Certifying Officer. A Certifying Officer is either a Labour Commissioner or a Regional Labour Commissioner and also includes any other Officer appointed by the appropriate government through notification in the official gazette.
As soon as the said Act becomes applicable to the industrial establishment, the employer of that establishment is required to submit to the Certifying Officer five draft copies of the standing orders which he intends to adopt for his establishment. Such draft standing orders sent by the employer for approval must adhere to the model standing orders and must contain all the aspects mentioned in the schedule which are applicable to his industrial establishment. The draft must be attached with the details of the number of workmen employed in the industrial establishment along with the names of the trade union, if any.
The draft standing orders shall stand certified if they are in compliance with the relevant provisions stated in the schedule to this Act or they must adhere to the other provisions of this Act. The onus lies upon the Certifying officer to check the reasonableness and justifiability of the draft standing orders before approving. The standing orders must comply with the provisions of this Act and if any such specification is found unreasonable by the Certifying Officer, he must deny certifying the same.
The Certifying Officer, after receiving the draft standing orders from the employer, shall forward a copy of the same to the trade union (if any) or to the workmen in the prescribed manner along with a notice to raise objections, if any. Such objections are to be brought forward within 15 days from the date of receipt of the notice. Further, the Certifying Officer shall consider the objections raised and provide an opportunity of being heard to the workmen and employer and then shall proceed to carry out necessary amendments, after which he shall certify the Standing orders. The copies of the certified standing orders must be sent to both the employer and employees within 7 days of such certification. The Certifying Officer is empowered to maintain a register under Section 8 of this Act, wherein he can maintain a record of all the certified standing orders certified by him and he is also entitled to furnish a copy of the same to any person upon payment of prescribed fees.
The Act authorizes the employer or trade union or workmen to oppose to the certified standing orders and make an appeal before the appellate authority within 30 days from the date on which the copies are forwarded to the employer and workmen. The decisions made by the appellate authority shall be final. The appellate authority may either confirm the standing orders certified by the Certifying Officer or amend the same and send the copies of it within 7 days from the date of its order to the employer or the workmen representative. However, it is pertinent to note that the appellate authority is not empowered to set aside the order of the Certifying Officer, it can give assent or modify the standing orders.
The standing orders shall come into force or be in operation on expiry of 30 days from the date of sending of authenticated copies to the employer or the workmen. In case of any appeal to the appellate authority, then upon expiry of seven days from the date on which the copies are sent to the appellate authority.
The employer shall post the standing orders in prominent letter in English as well as the language acquainted by majority of the workmen. Such standing orders shall be posted on special boards maintained at the entrance or near by the entrance where it can be viewed by the majority of the workmen.
The Act prohibits the employer to modify the standing orders after the certification of the same. However, it is pertinent to note that the workmen are entitled to apply for modification and there is no limit on number of modification application to be made. In case of any such modification, the employer must enter into special agreement with the workmen representative or trade union. And such modification cannot be carried before expiry of 6 months from which the standing orders were previously modified or certified. The employer or the workmen representative or the trade union shall make a fresh application to the Certifying Officer for the modification of the standing orders. Such application must accompany with five copies of the proposed modification. It shall also be attached to the copy of the agreement if so entered into between the employer and workmen/ trade union.
The employer is required to pay a subsistence allowance to the workmen, whose services are suspended. Such subsistence allowance is calculated as fifty per cent of the wage of the workmen for first ninety days, immediately preceding the date of suspension and seventy five per cent for the remaining period if there is a delay in completion of disciplinary proceedings against such workmen. Any dispute pertaining to the subsistence allowance shall be referred to the Labour Court constituted under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
Further, the said Act states that, in case of any query or question regarding interpretation or implementation of the standing orders certified under this Act, the same shall be referred to the Labour Court by the employer or workmen representative or trade union. The Labour Court, upon giving equal opportunities of being heard shall pass an order to that effect. Such an order passed by the Labour Court shall be final and binding on the parties.
The Act provides for temporary application of the model standing orders to the industrial establishment. The model standing orders shall be applicable to the industrial establishment from the date on which the said Act has become applicable to the particular industrial establishment till the date of the receipt of the certified standing orders. In case, there are no certified standing orders, then the model standing orders are deemed to be applicable to that industrial establishment.
The Certifying Officer and the appellate authority shall have the powers of the civil Court for the purpose of accepting evidence, governing oaths, implementing attendance of witnesses etc.
The Act confers penalties upon the employer in case of failure on behalf of the employer to send draft standing orders or to carry out modifications of the standing orders in contravention to the provisions of this Act. Such employer shall be penalised with a fine which may extend to five thousand rupees and further fine of rupees two hundred in case of continuing the offence.
by Dakshaja Yeolekar.