In November, the Karnataka government issued a notification citing the Madras High Court ruling made 19 years back, which had done away with Section 66 (1) (b) of the Factories Act prohibiting women from working in night shifts. Women will now be allowed to work night shifts, that is, from seven in the evening to six in the morning, only if they are willing. However, the notification lays down specific conditions for employers without fulfilling which they cannot have the women in their workforce doing night shifts.
The employers will have to take necessary steps to check and prevent sexual harassment at the workplace. There will have to be women security personnel on duty. Women staff members will have to be provided transport facilities so that they are picked from and dropped at home.
There should also be security guards deployed, as well as CCTV cameras for extra safety. The vehicles in which the women staff travel should have CCTV cameras. Each batch of women should comprise at least 10 women staff, and at least two-thirds of the workforce should be women (in the night shift).
Provisions should also be made by the employers to ensure adequate lighting, canteens, and medical care. The CCTV at the workplace should have footage for at least two months stored.
The Inspector of Factories in the Department of Factories, Boilers, Industrial Safety and Health, should be sent a report on the employees working night shifts every two weeks.
The employers stand the risk of losing their license if they are found to be violating any rules.
This is a huge step towards ensuring economic independence for women. Till now, only women in the information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services (ITeS) were allowed to work night shifts.