From Glass Ceilings to Equal Opportunities: Women’s Rights in Employment

Each day and every day we are progressing towards more women taking complete control over their professional lives and bringing about an impactful contribution in different companies as a founder, chief officers, major stakeholders and managers. As we take pride in the energy, creativity and zest that women are bringing to the table, it’s also crucial to address the elephant in the room – the gender gap. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 by the World Economic Forum, India was positioned at 135 out of 146 countries in the gender gap ranking. The report also highlighted that gender equality progress has stagnated, and it is estimated to require another 132 years to achieve global gender parity.

Through this blog, let’s put light on the employment related rights available to women employed by private sector organizations in India.

  1. Rights guaranteed by the Constitution: India’s Constitution, recognized as the highest law of the land, provides explicit assurances of equality before the law for every individual and expressly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender. Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees citizens of India the right to pursue any profession, occupation, trade, or business of their choice. 
  2. Ensuring equal pay and opportunities: Enacted in 1976, the Equal Remuneration Act mandates equal compensation for men and women engaged in similar or identical work. This law also forbids discrimination against female workers in matters such as recruitment, promotions, training, and overall employment conditions. Employers are obligated to maintain records and registers that demonstrate compliance with these provisions, and these records must be accessible for inspection by relevant authorities.
  1. Ensuring a workplace free from harassment: The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013 was enacted to establish a secure working environment for women, irrespective of their employment status. Apart from implementing preventive measures against workplace sexual harassment, employers are obligated to establish an internal committee responsible for promptly and discreetly addressing complaints of sexual harassment. Employers are also compelled to conduct regular training sessions for their employees on this subject.
  2. Maternity benefits and job security: The Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 grants eligible female employees an extensive maternity leave period of up to twenty-six weeks, making it one of the most generous maternity benefit legislations globally. This law also extends twelve weeks of paid maternity leave to surrogate mothers and women adopting children under three months of age. Moreover, it offers paid leave for women employees facing pregnancy-related illnesses, premature births, miscarriages, or medical pregnancy terminations. Under the Employees’ State Insurance Act of 1948, insured women employees are entitled to various benefits, encompassing medical care, sickness benefits, maternity benefits, and disability benefits.
  1. Health and well-being: According to the Factories Act of 1948, employers are legally obliged to implement essential health, safety, and welfare measures for their female employees. These measures encompass the provision of separate washrooms, changing rooms, and lockers exclusively for women employees. Furthermore, special security protocols and other procedures must be followed when engaging female employees during nighttime hours. In addition to the Factories Act, various state-specific regulations for shops and commercial establishments impose similar responsibilities on employers. For instance, the Government of Haryana has established comprehensive guidelines governing the employment of women during night shifts in specific categories of establishments. These guidelines encompass the provision of transportation and medical facilities, among other requirements, ensuring the safety and well-being of female employees.
  1. Compulsory board representation: As per the Companies Act of 2013, specific categories of companies are obligated to include at least one female director on their board. This stipulation is designed to guarantee the presence of women in key decision-making positions within a company.

In recent times, Indian companies have been progressively moving towards formulating policies that extend beyond legal requirements. Among these advancements, the introduction of paid menstrual leave stands out. Moreover, companies are starting to establish policies that acknowledge the distinct requirements of their workforce, particularly concerning caregiving responsibilities, fertility treatments, and flexible work arrangements.

While understanding and complying with legal mandates represent crucial initial steps toward workplace equity, it is essential for organizations to actively cultivate an inclusive culture. This includes establishing platforms and structures for open dialogues and efficient grievance resolution processes.

A woman is like a tea bag until you steep her in boiling water, you can’t tell how powerful she is.

In the past, we resided in a predominantly male-dominated society. Women’s empowerment has now become a global movement, aiming to create an environment where women enjoy equal rights in both the community and the workplace, free from violence and gender discrimination. In this context, there are numerous labor laws in place to safeguard the rights and safety of female employees.

India has established a range of legal protections for women in the workplace. Ensuring the safety of women has become a paramount concern in the country. Many women in India do not feel safe when they are alone, whether it’s on the streets, at work, in markets, at home, or anywhere else. It is crucial that women feel secure, especially when spending eight hours a day away from home in a work environment.

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