Qualified Women Can’t Be Denied Work Even if It Involves Night Shifts: Kerala HC
A woman cannot be denied the opportunity to apply for a job simply because it might entail working at night, the Kerala High Court has ruled.
The judgment was prompted by a petition filed by Treasa Josfine, a safety engineer, who wanted to apply for the position of safety officer at Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited. She was already working with the company as a trainee, but despite being qualified for the position, was embargoed from applying for safety officer since the company was only seeking male candidates.
She argued the embargo violated the right to equality guaranteed by the constitution. But the company stated that a provision under the Factories Act of 1948 prevented it from employing women outside the hours of 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. — and the job in question would require the employee to work well beyond that.
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Addressing the impasse, the court ruled that the provision preventing women from working at night is a relic of the past. The statute was “enacted at a time when requiring a woman to work in an establishment of any nature, more so in a factory, during the night time could only be seen as exploitative and violative of her rights,” said Justice Anu Sivaraman, who heard the petition. Since then, women have “taken up much more demanding roles in society as well as in economic spheres,” Justice Sivaraman added.
The court held that the provision was simply meant to protect women and cannot be used as a means to deny them employment. In fact, Justice Sivaraman noted that, despite the provision, the state government does permit companies to employ women outside the stipulated hours, “on condition that all safety precautions and facilities for such engagement are arranged by the employer.”
Essentially, the court prevented the company from holding on to a provision that has ceased to apply to the present day, in which women work a variety of time shifts in health care, aviation, and a host of other sectors. And, in the process, it pushed the onus of providing a safe environment for their female employees onto companies — rather than allowing them to discriminate against women.