K'taka allows women to work night shifts in factories

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Karnataka has issued a notification allowing women to work night shifts (7 pm to 6 am) in all factories registered with the government. 

The notification, issued by the Labour Department on Wednesday, has laid down 24 points that factories must comply with to ensure safety and security of women. 

The government’s decision is based on the Madras High Court striking down Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948, which prohibited employment of women to work in night shifts. 

Currently, women are allowed to work night shifts only in the IT and IT-enabled service sectors. 

With this move, the government has thrown open the manufacturing sector for women to work in. 

"That women should be allowed to work in the night shift, if they are willing, was a demand made by industry captains when I met them," Labour Minister S Suresh Kumar told DH. 

"It shall not be made compulsory or obligatory for any woman worker to work in night shifts. Written consent shall be obtained from the women workers who are interested to work in night shifts," the notification states. 

Employers have been directed to put in place systems to prevent sexual harassment of women while also providing conditions for "work, leisure, health and hygiene to further ensure to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at workplaces and no woman employee should have reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment." 

Factories have been asked to establish a Complaints Committee to handle grievances of women employees. The committee should be "preferably" headed by a woman and not less than half of its members should be women, besides a representative from a nonprofit. 

Employers are required to provide proper lighting and surveillance cameras not only inside the factory, but also its surroundings. Also, women can be employed in a batch not less than ten and the total number of women in the night shift should not be less than two-thirds of the total strength. 

Other points of compliance include appointment of two female wardens, a separate canteen facility for women, not less than 1/3 of the supervisory staff to be women during night shifts among others. 

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