According to the new guidelines from the Southern India Mills’ Association (SIMA), teenaged girls between 16 and 19 will not be put on night shifts or made to work more than nine hours. Girls below the age of 16 should not be recruited for work either.
Young girls in the workforce — which consists mostly of women — will also be allowed to take time off during their periods. The new code of conduct came into effect following complaints of abuse. The Association feels it is high time to make factory owners and manufacturers aware of the manner in which employees should be treated.
The new rules will also send out a message to global buyers that workers are treated well here and that abuse of any kind is not tolerated.
India’s garment industry employs approx. 45 million workers, most of whom are women. The states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are the hubs for the industry.
However, these manufacturing units offer no legal protection to the workers and there are no grievance-redressal systems in place either.
Therefore, it is common to come across cases of poor wages, ill-treatment, extra working hours (sometimes more than 60 hours a week), intimidation, sexual harassment and inadequate working conditions. The exploitation of labour only increases when the pressure to supply and deliver goods faster and at a cheaper rate mounts.
The code of conduct addresses the issues pertaining to maternity benefits, migrant workers and minimum wages and says that women cannot be terminated on becoming pregnant.
While most of these rules already exist as per Indian law, the new code of conduct aims to help factories rise to international labour standards and comply with the law. It will help employers ensure safety for women at the workplace.