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Labour Law amid Pandemic

Covid-19 has affected all professions across the world. The lockdown imposed is unprecedented and what future holds is still ambiguous. While WHO also points out the uncertainty and the likeliness that coronavirus may never go away, many scholars have pointed out that the best thing to do right now is, to learn to live with that. While that seemingly sounds too convenient for people with resources to survive this pandemic until it lasts, but the main problem is with daily wage labourers who are affected the worst. India faced a huge, never seen before in recent times, migration of labour across the country. Without proper means and a desire to get back to their home states, it was reported that thousands of workers migrated on foot, walking for hundreds of kilometres.

Labour Law Ordinance, 2020

A suggestion to suspend labour laws except for those governing minimum wages, bonus and statutory dues, for two to three years was also made by the employer's associations. In India, labour laws govern mostly the working condition, employment security and industrial relations, social security and wages and remuneration and it falls in the concurrent list. The suspension of labour laws (except for a few) on one hand seems to be a fitting suggestion to revive the economy, on one hand, taking away the basic liberties will create a lot of other problems, which will be against the spirit of our democracy and Constitution of India. Other countries have been taking pro labourer stance and granted funds to work with the industry and work for the welfare of the labourers, for example, UK government is paying 80% of usual wages of employees laid off four 4 months. But in India, the UP government recently approved an ordinance to suspend almost all labour laws in the state to attract investment. A lot of sources suggest this a political move. Studies by them show that labour laws do no effect huge investments anyways. The mistreatment of labour class which constitutes a huge part of our population is clouded by interests of big industrialists.

The need for rethinking on Ordinance

The finance minister suggested measures for migrants, street vendors and small traders but the issue of labour laws still exists. Instead of formalizing the majorly unorganized informal economy such ordinances by states like UP will result in an environment of exploitation. India lacks a formal set of labour laws. With state making ordinances on a concurrent matter, a central policy which benefits the masses is the need of the hour. The International Labour Organisation also released a statement that pointed out that all such relaxations adhere to global standards and should be effected after proper consultation. Hence as correctly stated such amendments should only be enforced after a tripartite consultation involving the government, the worker’s and the employer’s organisation. The trade unions across the country are terming this as an “inhuman crime”. The socialist and the Gandhian ideologies of our democracy cannot be compromised even during a global pandemic. Granting free aids to the helpless labour class while it is forced to migrate will not do much in the long run if their basic liberties like a safe working environment etc., will be compromised. Hence what we require is a careful re-examination of “excessive” labour laws while avoiding a state of suppression and anarchy caused by complete removal of labour laws.


  1. Corona virus may never go WHO, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-52643682.

  2. See, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/20/government-pay-wages-jobs-coronavirus-rishi-sunak.

  3. See, Somesh Jha, Labour law changes in India should adhere to global standards, says ILO, Business Standard, https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/labour-law-changes-in-india-should-adhere-to-global-standards-ilo-120051301663_1.html.


Rashi Choudhary is currently studying in National Law University, Jodhpur.

You can contact them: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rashi-choudhary-488b22173/

Edited By: Swati Tolambia

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