Techies file PIL against long work hours, and poor leave policies

As per the Telangana Shops and Establishments Act of 1988, companies cannot make employees work for more than eight hours a day, and 48 hours a week.

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Three techies have raised their voices against the taxing work hours and unsatisfactory leave policies followed in information technology (IT) firms in Hyderabad. These techies, with the help of the Forum against Corruption, claim that their Fundamental Rights against Exploitation have been violated, and have, therefore, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Telangana High Court.

According to the Telangana Shops and Establishments Act, 1988, organisations cannot make employees work for over eight hours a day, and 48 hours a week. The Act states that if the need ever arises, employees can be made to work overtime only for a maximum of six hours a week and 24 hours a year, for which they have to be given monetary compensation.

Till now, most IT employees in the city were not really aware of their own rights.

Employees have the right to 15 days of paid leave, 12 days of casual leave, and 12 days of sick leave every year. However, for almost two decades now, a government order (GO) has exempt the IT companies in Hyderabad from six sections of the law, which covered holidays, the opening and closing hours, daily and weekly hours, and termination of services.

At the time, the GO was a temporary measure aimed at transforming Hyderabad into an IT hub. The expiry date has been extended several times since.

As if not paying for overtime wasn’t bad enough, it is reported that some companies do not pay the transporation charges to those who commute to work in their own vehicles. The petition also mentions the mandatory and long notice periods that companies and the fact that employees are expected to be available online even on holidays.

According to the PIL, this is exploitation, and companies, such as Accenture, Cognizant and Caspex Corp, as well as the State’s labour department have been charged of the same. All of them have been given four weeks to present their responses to the petitioners.

For those who have been working 9 to 10-hour shifts or more a day, for years— not including the time taken to commute to and from work—and have not been paid any overtime for the extra work, there seems to be a glimmer of hope. Many workers have been spending almost five to six hours simply travelling to work, at the cost of personal time with family and friends. This PIL will hopefully ensure work-life balance for IT employees in Hyderabad.

Interestingly, the punishment for violations under the Act is just a small fine of Rs 100!

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