Working Hours in India

June 5th 2024

Several legislative acts govern working hours in India, aiming to regulate labour conditions and ensure employees’ rights.

This article explores the standard working hours across different sectors in India, the legal framework governing these hours, and the recent legal amendments of the labour code to provide a comprehensive understanding of managing working hours in India.

This Article Covers: 

Standard Hours of Work in India
Averaging and Modified Work Schedules in India
Maximum Working Hours and Overtime in India
Break and Rest Periods in India
Special Provisions for Specific Employee Categories in India
Record-Keeping and Compliance in India
Legal Framework and Employee Rights in India
Recent Amendments to the India Labour Code

Standard Hours of Work in India

Standard Working Hours in India

The standard working hours in India, as governed by the Factories Act, 1948 and the Shops and Establishment Acts (SEA), is not more than 9 hours per day or 48 hours per week. This includes a mandatory one-hour rest or meal break. If an employee exceeds the normal working hours, they are entitled to overtime pay.

Minor employees are strictly prohibited from working more than four and a half hours per day. Minors are not permitted to work during the night, which is defined as a period spanning at least twelve consecutive hours, including the hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Their work schedules are further restricted to two shifts, each lasting no more than five hours, with no overlap between shifts. Moreover, female children are only allowed to work between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., underscoring the emphasis on protecting their safety and welfare.

Regional Variations in Hours of Work in India

In India, labour laws governing working hours vary across different regions, with each state or city having its own set of regulations. These regulations dictate the maximum hours of work per day and per week for both adult workers and children and also specify rest intervals and overtime rules.

  • New Delhi: Maximum daily working hours are limited to nine, with a 1/2-hour rest and meal interval for every five hours of continuous work. Maximum weekly working hours are capped at 48 under normal circumstances.
  • Mumbai: Similar to New Delhi, with maximum daily working hours of 9 and a rest and meal interval of at least one-hour for every five hours of continuous work. Maximum weekly working hours are set at 48 under normal circumstances, with special circumstances allowing up to 54 hours.
  • Chennai: Maximum daily working hours limited to 8, with a 1/2-hour rest and meal interval for every 4 hours of continuous work. Weekly working hours are capped at 48 under normal circumstances.
  • Kolkata: Maximum daily working hours set at eight and a half, with a one-hour rest and meal interval for every five and a half hours of continuous work. Weekly working hours are restricted to 48 under normal circumstances.

Averaging and Modified Work Schedules in India

Concept of Spread Over Hours in India

In India, the concept of spread over hours is an important aspect of managing work schedules, particularly for employees working night shifts or extended hours that span across two consecutive days. Spread over hours refers to the distribution of an employee’s working hours over a longer period, usually extending beyond the standard workday and perhaps overlapping with multiple calendar days. The spread over should not exceed 10.5 hours.

For employees whose work extends beyond midnight, the hours worked after midnight are considered part of the previous day’s total working hours. This means that if a worker’s shift starts at 10:00 p.m. and ends at 6:00 a.m. the next day, the hours worked between midnight and 6:00 a.m. are counted towards the previous day’s total working hours.

Modified Work Schedules in India

Implementing modified work schedules in India provides a flexible approach to work arrangements that cater to the needs of both employers and employees. These schedules include various adjustments, such as compressed workweeks or flexible working hours, tailored to suit the specific requirements of different industries and workplaces.

Requirements for Creating, Changing, or Canceling a Modified Work Schedule in India

Creating, changing, or canceling a modified work schedule in India has several requirements to ensure compliance with labour laws and promote fairness for employees. In several cases, the process begins with consultations between employers and employees or their legal representatives to discuss proposed modifications.

If covered by a collective bargaining agreement, any changes to work schedules must be negotiated and agreed upon between the employer and the union in writing. With such an agreement, employers may be able to provide advance notice of the proposed modifications through written notices posted in the workplace or distributed electronically, to ensure employees are informed and have sufficient time to adjust.

Compliance with relevant labour laws, such as the Factories Act, Shops and Establishments Act, or other industry-specific regulations, is essential to ensure that modifications to work schedules comply with statutory requirements.

Maximum Working Hours and Overtime in India

Maximum Hours Per Week in India

Overtime rules and compensation in India were primarily governed by the Factories Act of 1948. Along with the other major labour laws, the Act has been subsumed into one single code, the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions (OSH Code), 2020. According to the Code, employees are generally required to work no more than 8 to 9 hours per day (12 hours in some regions) and 48 hours per week. Any work beyond these limits is considered overtime.

Further, the total number of hours of work, including overtime, should not exceed ten and a half hours in a day and 60 hours in a week.

Overtime Rules and Compensation in India

In India, overtime pay does not apply to all employees. Eligibility depends on factors such as job nature and labour laws. Under the OSH Code, certain categories are exempt from overtime pay, which includes:

  • Managers or supervisors
  • Employees holding administrative, executive, or managerial positions
  • Employees engaged in confidential or security-related work
  • Government employees
  • Contractual workers
  • Freelancers

Non-exempt employees in India are entitled to overtime pay, calculated at twice the employee’s regular rate, commonly referred to as “double pay.”

For example, if an employee earns INR 200 per hour, the overtime wage rate would be INR 400. If the employee works 2 hours of overtime, the compensation for the overtime work would be:

Overtime pay = Overtime hours (2 hours) x Overtime rate (INR 400 per hour)
Overtime pay = INR 800

It is important to note there is an overtime limit in India. Under Indian labour law, the maximum duration of overtime allowed per day is two hours.

Break and Rest Periods in India

Entitlement to Meal and Rest Breaks in India

Both the OSH Code, 2020, and the state-specific Shops and Establishments Act (SEA) mandate that employers provide employees with adequate rest and meal breaks during their workday.

Employees in India can work up to 48 hours in one standard workweek; this means the standard working hours of an employee is eight to nine hours per day. Employees are entitled to receive a 30- to 60-minute rest interval after four to five hours of continuous work.

In India, employees are entitled to one day of rest every workweek, which usually falls on a Sunday. If an employee works on a rest day, they must be provided with a substitute rest day.

Specific Regulations for Night Workers in India

In India, a “night shift” refers to working hours between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Employees working on a night shift must have a minimum gap of 11 hours between the end of one shift and the start of another shift. Furthermore, when an employee working on a night shift is entitled to a weekly rest day for a full day shall be considered as a period of 24 consecutive hours from the end of the shift. Employees working on a night shift should not work more than five consecutive hours without a rest interval of at least 30 minutes.

Women working night shifts are permitted to work with their consent. Employers must ensure safety measures, adequate transportation from the workplace to the residence, and other conditions prescribed by the government to protect the health and safety of women working at night.

Special Provisions for Specific Employee Categories in India

Different industries in India have specific provisions regarding work hours to ensure the well-being and safety of employees. These provisions are:

  • Factory Workers: Factory workers in India are protected by the Factories Act, 1948. The Act mandates a maximum of 48 hours of work per week spread over 6 days, with no worker permitted to work more than 9 hours a day or 48 hours a week. Further, work beyond specified hours is subject to overtime compensation.
  • Mine Workers: The Mines Act, 1952 regulates the working hours of mine workers in India. It sets a maximum limit of 48 hours per week, with no worker allowed to work more than 8 hours a day. Overtime is provided for work beyond the specified hours.
  • Construction Workers: The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, governs construction workers. The maximum work limit is 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week. Overtime pay is provided for work beyond specified hours.
  • Transportation Industry: The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 oversees the working hours of employees in the transportation industry. It stipulates a maximum of 8 hours of work per day and 48 hours per week, with provisions for overtime pay for additional hours worked.
  • Beedi and Cigar Industry Workers: The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966 regulates the working hours of employees in this industry. It mandates a maximum of 9 hours of work per day and 48 hours per week, with provisions for overtime pay for exceeding specified hours.
  • Information Technology (IT) Industry: The working hours in the IT industry are often governed by the Shops and Establishments Act of the respective state. Generally, employees are allowed a maximum of 9 hours of work per day and 48 hours per week, with provisions for overtime pay for additional hours.
  • Audio-Visual Industry: Governed by provisions under the OSH Code, 2020, the audio-visual industry has specific regulations concerning work hours and rest breaks. Agreements must be in writing and registered authority to ensure adherence to the stipulated regulations.

Record-Keeping and Compliance in India

Employer Obligations for Time-Tracking in India

While no specific law or policy in India mandates employers to time-tracking working hours, various provisions within existing labour legislation address this obligation. Time-tracking employees’ working hours in India helps comply with the Factories Act of 1948 and the Shops and Establishments Acts, which regulate working hours, overtime, and rest intervals of employees.

Time-tracking systems help record data for working hours and overtime, which should be integrated with payroll systems to ensure accurate calculation of wages, including regular pay and overtime compensation.

Penalties for Non-Compliance in India

Non-compliance with working hours regulations in India can have serious consequences for employers. The Factories Act of 1948 outlines penalties for breaches of its overtime regulations. If an employer violates these provisions, they could face imprisonment for up to 2 years, a fine of up to INR 100,000, or both. If employers continue to violate the provisions after conviction, a daily fine of INR 1,000 for each day of non-compliance is incurred.

To avoid penalties, employers should prioritize compliance, establish time-tracking and record-keeping systems, and implement company policies and procedures to ensure adherence to working hours regulations.

Employees can file a wage claim with the Regional Labour Commissioner’s Office.

Legal Framework and Employee Rights in India

The legal framework in India protects and promotes employees’ rights, ensuring fair treatment, safe working conditions, and adequate social security.

  • The Factories Act, 1948: This legislation sets out provisions related to the health, safety, and welfare of workers employed in factories. It covers aspects such as working hours, safety standards, employment of young persons and women, and factory inspections.
  • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948: Enacted to ensure that workers receive a minimum wage rate that corresponds to their skill level and the prevailing cost of living. It empowers the appropriate government to fix and revise minimum wage rates for different categories of workers.
  • The Payment of Wages Act, 1936: This act regulates the timely payment of wages to employees and prohibits unauthorized deductions from their wages. It mandates that wages be paid in legal tender and at regular intervals.
  • The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948: It provides for social security measures such as medical benefits, sickness benefits, maternity benefits, and disability benefits to employees working in factories and specified establishments.
  • The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947: This act governs the resolution of industrial disputes and regulates the conditions of service of workers. It provides for mechanisms such as conciliation, arbitration, and adjudication to settle disputes between employers and employees.
  • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961: It mandates provisions for maternity leave, maternity benefits, and crèche facilities for female employees. The act aims to protect the employment rights of pregnant and nursing mothers.
  • The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976: This act ensures that men and women receive equal pay for equal work or work of a similar nature. It prohibits discrimination in remuneration on the basis of gender.

Recent Amendments to the India Labour Code

Recently, the Indian government has passed four main Labour Codes consolidating 29 different labour laws, and are awaiting implementation:

  • Codes on Wages Act: The Code on Wages Act, 2019 subsumed four existing labour laws – the Minimum Wage Act, Payment of Wages Act, Payment of Bonus Act, and Equal Remuneration Act. This regulation ensures employees receive at least the government-mandated minimum wage, with periodic reviews to adjust for changing living costs. The Code applies to all industries and is enforced by both central and state governments to ensure uniform adherence to standards across different regions.
  • Industrial Relations Code: The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 updates and simplifies laws related to trade unions, employment conditions, and dispute resolution. The Code covers the registration and management of trade unions, the formation of work committees, and grievance resolution mechanisms. Further, it addresses industrial tribunal formation, illegal strikes, retrenchment procedures, and employee compensation during industrial establishment transfers or closures.
  • Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code: The Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2020 focuses on the well-being of employees in various sectors such as industry, trade, construction, transportation, and services. It applies to employees in factories, mines, transportation, plantations, beedi, and cigar industries, and contractual and migrant workers. The code addresses several aspects of occupational safety, health, and working conditions to protect employees’ rights and interests.
  • Code on Social Security: The Code on Social Security, 2020 aims to update and expand social security laws for workers in both organized and unorganized sectors. The Code consolidates existing laws while introducing new provisions to accommodate contemporary work practices. Notably, it broadens the definition of “employee” to include contractual employees, gig workers, and self-employed individuals to ensure social security benefits for employees in the gig economy and informal sectors. Further, the Code promotes gender equality by extending maternity benefits to a wider range of women.

According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these labour law reforms aim to improve the working environment and accelerate economic growth:

  • Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017: This amendment notably extends maternity leave for women employees from 12 weeks to 26 weeks, accompanied by provisions for creche facilities in larger establishments. The Act promotes gender equality and supports working mothers by enabling better work-life balance.
  • Apprenticeship (Amendment), Act 2021: The amendment is geared towards boosting apprenticeship training by enhancing registration processes, introducing stipends, and promoting participation in the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme.
  • Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Central Rules, 2021: These rules introduce a standardized model for standing orders in industrial establishments, simplifying drafting and implementation processes and promoting consistency and clarity in employment regulations across sectors.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.