On September 6, the Tamil Nadu government tabled a bill in the legislative assembly which aims at providing mandatory seating for all shop employees of big and small establishments during their working hours. The Bill was introduced by Minister for Labour Welfare and Skill Development, C.V Ganesan, who said that every employee has a right to sit. He further stated that it is crucial to provide that seating provision to employees because standing for long hours while doing their jobs can raise serious health concerns.
The minister has sought to amend the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, by adding a subsection to provide mandatory seating facilities for the staff. “The premises of every establishment shall have suitable seating arrangements for all employees so that they may take advantage of any opportunity to sit which may occur in the course of their work and thereby avoid ‘on their toes’ situation throughout the working hours,” the proposed Section 22-A read.
Kerala was the first to make provision for the mandatory seating arrangement for employees after women staff of textile showrooms protested for better working conditions. As a result, the Kerala government amended the Kerala Shops and Establishments Act in 2018 to provide seating arrangements for all staff.
In an interview with News18, Dr Karunanithi welcomed the latest move of tabling the Bill by the Tamil Nadu government and said that providing seating for all employees is a critical aspect to give employees their right to dignity.
The doctor said that standing for long hours has not only physical consequences but also impact employees’ mental health conditions.
“Standing for consecutive hours may result in varicose veins. Varicose veins are caused by increased blood pressure in the veins that happens when standing for many hours consecutively. When the valves become weakened, blood can collect in the veins that will result in severe problems. Also, if an employee has fluctuating Blood Pressure, taking a pill and standing for hours may result in fainting. Meanwhile, if a diabetic patient doesn’t eat properly and stands for long hours, they too might fall ill or faint.”
Dr Karunanithi pointed out that beyond seating arrangements, organizations and companies also have an obligation to provide a good work environment for their employees. “First of all, the organizations should provide a good toilet facility, especially for female workers. Work hours also should be limited to a maximum of 8 to 10 hours. Good quality and hygienic food should also be provided to the employees.