India Break Laws

May 24th 2024

In India, labor laws and regulations protect the welfare, safety, and health of employees across various sectors. A critical aspect of the India Labor Law is the workers’ entitlement to breaks during working hours. The framework for break entitlements in India is primarily governed by the Factories Act of 1948 and the Shops and Establishments Acts.

This article provides the key provisions related to meal and rest break periods, breastfeeding obligations, and other related break entitlements in India.

This Article Covers:

Rest Breaks in India

Rest breaks in India ensure employees have adequate time to rest during their working hours. The key legislations governing rest breaks include the Factories of 1948 and the Shops and Establishments Acts (SEA).

Under the Factories of 1948, factory workers cannot work for more than 5 continuous hours without a break. The break must be at least 30 minutes. Section 56 of the act stipulates that the total spread-over of the working hours, including rest breaks, should not exceed 10.5 hours in a day.

The Shops and Establishments Acts (SEA) are state-specific laws that regulate the working conditions of employees in commercial establishments, including provisions for rest breaks. Each state may have its own act, but it must provide similar or better conditions than its general principles. The SEA mandates that no employees should work more than 5 hours without a rest period of at least 30 minutes. The spread-over of the working hours, including rest, should not exceed 10 hours in any day.

Meal Breaks in India

Meal breaks in India ensure that employees have adequate time to eat during their working hours. Under the Factories Act of 1948, workers in factories working continuously for more than 5 hours are entitled to meal breaks of at least 30 minutes. This act further specifies that the total spread-over of working hours, inclusive of meal breaks, should not exceed 10.5 hours in any day.

The SEA governs meal breaks for employees working in commercial establishments. Although the acts are state-specific, the general provisions are similar across the states in India. Under the SEA, no employee should work for more than 5 hours without a 30-minute meal break, and the spread-over of the working hours, including meal breaks, must not exceed 10 hours in any day.

Breastfeeding and Nursing Breaks in India

Under the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, employers in India are required to provide nursing or breastfeeding breaks to new mothers so that they can express breast milk for their nursing child.

Nursing mothers are entitled to two breaks of the prescribed duration. The duration is not explicitly defined in the act, which leaves the employers and employees to agree upon reasonable arrangements. Employers must ensure these breaks are sufficient for the mother to express milk. Breastfeeding breaks in India are fully paid and valid until the child reaches the age of 15 months.

In addition to the breastfeeding breaks, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 mandates employers with 50 or more employees to provide a crèche facility. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has issued Crèche Guidelines:

  • One crèche for every 30 children between the ages of 6 months to 6 years of all types of employees;
  • The crèche must be located near the workplace or within 500 meters of the establishment;
  • Employers are required to employ one crèche worker and an assistant for every ten children under the age of 3 and every 20 children between the ages of 3 and 6.

A nursing employee is allowed four visits to the crèche in a day. Both the employer and the employee must agree upon the duration of each visit.

Exemption to Break Laws in India

Certain employees and specific industries in India may have exemptions or modifications related to break entitlements. Under the Factories Act of 1948, employees in managerial or administrative positions are often exempt from the rest break requirements stipulated in the act. Section 64 of the act exempts certain high-level positions where the nature of the job demands flexibility in working hours.

Under the SEA, each state may have its own set of exemptions. Under the general provisions, employees in the managerial and supervisory roles are exempt. Further, those employees required to handle emergencies or essential services during critical periods may be exempt.

Weekly Rest Day Requirements in India

In India, employees are entitled to a weekly day of rest. The Factories Act of 1948 and the Shops and Establishments Acts govern the weekly rest days of employees.

According to Section 52 of the Factories Act of 1948:

  • No adult workers are required or allowed to work in a factory on the first day of the week (Sunday) unless they have a whole day off within 3 days before or after the said day.
  • The employer must ensure that no worker works for more than 10 days consecutively without a full day of rest.
  • If a worker is required to work on their weekly rest day, they should be compensated at twice their regular wage rate.

Further, each state in India has its own Shops and Establishments Act, which includes provisions for weekly rest days of employees in commercial establishments. While there may be variations for each state, the fundamental provisions are similar: one day of the week is for rest.

Penalties for Employers Violating Break Laws in India

Employers in India must adhere to the legal provisions regarding employee breaks to avoid penalties. Any employer found to violate the Factories Act can be fined up to 1 lakh rupees or a fine extending to 1,000 rupees per day. Imprisonment is included for a term that may extend to two years.

In addition, employers who are found non-compliant with rest and meal breaks stipulated by the Shops and Establishments Act. Non-compliant employers can result in fines of at least 100 rupees to 5,000 rupees.

Employers who fail to provide breastfeeding breaks for new mothers can be fined up to 5,000 rupees or imprisoned for up to one year.

Learn more about India Labour Laws in our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

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