When an organization has a plan to hire women employees to work during night hours, they need to adhere to some laws and create strong policies to make sure that they are safe inside the premises and reach back their home safely. In India, we generally refer to a night shift with working hours between 7:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
Here, we have the legislation such as the Factories Act, 1948, Plantation Labor Act, 1951, or State Shops and Establishments Act, etc. that enclose the provisions restricting women to work in the night shift. Section 66(1)(b) of the Factories Act, 1948 clearly states that the women employees will not be allowed to work in any of the factory other than the hours between 6:00 AM and 7:00 PM. However, after a lot of debates, the restriction was lifted by the majority of the industries. Now, the women were liberal to decide and select their working hours. The arguments were over the fact that the safety and security measures should be taken care by the companies in order to hire them for the night duties.
However, there are some industries that are exceptions and still restrict the women employment for night shifts. Section 25 of the Beedi and Cigar Workers Act, 1966 specifies that a woman will not be allowed to work in the industrial premise after 7:00 PM till 6:00 AM. Also, Section 46(1)(b) of the Mines Act, 1952 forbids women hiring during night hours in any mine above the ground. The shops and establishment act also restricts any women to work in an establishment after 9:30 PM. In IT/ ITeS industry, there is a provision for women employees that they can work after 8:00 PM provided they get transportation facility till doorstep along with adherence to the other security measures for the women employees.
Human Resource department of any organization should take care of the following measures to make sure that the women staff is safe if they are working the night shift. There should be proper HR Policy on employee safety and health wellness.
- Special Transport arrangements should be there with proper background verification of the drivers and cab owners for protection of the female employees who are working before 6:00 AM and after 8:30 PM
- Make sure that you hire and put the female employees in a job that is required to work jointly or in a group
- Make an arrangement to issue a special pass to all the vehicles that are transporting women employees
- HR should make a provision that they provide a security guard along with the vehicle that is dropping a women employee
- There should always be a colleague and a Security guard to go along with the driver in the cab, in case a woman staff is working in the night shift and also it needs to be clear that the women staff is either the first one to be picked or the last one to be dropped
- Take care that the transport has the GPS based monitoring systems providing a panic button as well
- Make arrangements for the SMS alerts installed or other information systems
- HR should collect and file all the required the identification documents of the drivers, casual staff and the security guards
- Operational CCTV for 24/7 to be installed at vital locations like entry/exit gate, common passages, parking areas, pick up point outside the office etc
- BE sure that you do random checks for Compliances and audits periodically including the driver’s breathe test
- Train your women staff as well for being alert and prepared
- You can organize the Self defence classes at the workplace
- There should be a proper sexual harassment committee in every organization that needs to reports to the managing director preferably headed by a woman