The History of Labour Laws in India


Posted by on November 27, 2016

The History of Labour Laws in India dates back to Pre-Independence British Era as these Labour and Industrial Laws were enacted by British Administration to protect interests of British Employers and Industrialists.

Indian Textile Industry was giving tough competition to the British Textile hence British Parliament introduced Factories Act in 1883. The Intent of introducing Factories Act was to increase the cost of Indian Labour thereby favoring British textile magnets from Lancashire and Manchester. As a result, India labour got a stipulated 8 hours a day work, introduction to overtime wages, abolition of Child Labour, and restriction of women working at night. While it benefited the labour market as a whole but the real motivation behind the move was to favor the wishes of vested interest.

Post World War I, Labour reforms were discussed internationally and the impact was seen in India with the introduction of Trade Union Act of 1923 and Industrial Disputes Act, 1929. The need was to regulate the relationship between employees and the employers. In these Acts, provision were laid down to regulate the workers’ right to form Unions for collective bargaining, to protest via strikes and lockouts.

Amidst the world economic depression, associated rise in unemployment and continued agitation for Independence, the British government established the Royal Commission on Labour in 1929. The commission received resistance and large scale boycott from the Indian labour movement. Nevertheless the Commission handed down its report and the outcome of these reports made way for a series of labour legislations from 1932 to 1937. Some of the key legislations passed included Payment of Wages Act, 1936 which empowered employers to deduct wages of employees absent from work without reasonable cause. Trade Disputes (Amendment) Act 1938, which authorized government to appoint conciliation officers to settle disputes.


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