In recent news, Indian companies will be able to offer employees a shorter 4-day working week. Although this news might make the working-class 9-5 employees happy, it does come with a twist. The weekly 48-hour work limit stays. This means that an employee who will be working on a 4-day week schedule will also have to work for longer hours on those days.  

The news comes from the Union Government’s new labour codes which will enable organizations to allow employees to work only for four days a week. However, Union Labour Secretary Apurva Chandra spoke to the reporters and said that the new labour law will have a provision which has the cap of 48-hours per week work limit. Chandra also added that organisations will now have three choices- assigning shifts to employees for four days at 12 hours per day, 5 days at around 9.5-10 hours per day, and six days at around 8 hours per day. 

Chandra speaking to reporters said, “It (working days) could come down below five. If it is four, then you have to provide three paid holidays…so if it has to be a seven day week, then it has to be divided into 4 or 5 or 6 working days.” Chandra also reaffirmed the 48-hour weekly working hour limit to be the same and said, “It is sacrosanct.” 

Work-life balance has always been a struggle for most people. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have realized how certain industries don’t require as many working days as they require hands-on working hours. This has created a snowball effect where a lot of industries would lean toward a four-day workweek albeit the work hours would be more.  

One should note that the six countries among ten countries with the shortest work weeks are also among the top 10 countries with the highest income in the world. These countries include Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Austria and Belgium. 

Apurva Chandra also added that the government has also proposed to provide free health check-ups to workers through its Employees State Insurance Corporation. Additionally, he also said the Centre has carried simultaneous consultations with Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and J&K. These states will be formulating their draft rules for the state-level labour codes.  

Chandra in the briefing told reporters that, “Rule making process is already underway and likely to complete in the coming week. All stakeholders are also consulted in framing of rules. This ministry would soon be in a position to bring into force the four Codes, viz., Code on Wages, Industrial Relations, Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) and Social Security Codes.” 

According to reports, the Union ministry has planned the implementation of these 4 labour codes from April 1, 2021 in one go without a hiccup. Around 44 central labour laws are being categorized and amalgamated and put in 4 broad codes on wages, industrial relations, social security and Occupational Health and Safety (OSH). 

The Labour Ministry had envisaged implementing the four labour codes from April 1 this year in one go. The ministry is in the final leg of amalgamating 44 central labour laws into four broad codes on wages, industrial relations, social security and OSH. 

Chandra also said that the new labour law offers flexibility for both employers and employees to have a four, five or six-day week. However, there has to be consent on both ends over the arrangement and the work hours cannot be enforced on the employees.  

Currently, organizations have to take permission from the government to cut workdays in a week which is fixed at 48 hours of the workweek of six-days and eight-hours of work each day.  

Meanwhile, to streamline the unorganised sector work has been done by the government. The government plans to roll out an online portal this year for the registration of workers who come under the unorganized sector. This includes gig and platform workers, migrant workers and other workers from unorganised sector.  

This portal would assist in the formulation of health, skill, insurance, food and other welfare policies for such workers. Moreover, the workers would also be provided an incentive of free coverage for 1 year for accident or disability under the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojna (PMSBY).