Guidelines for payment of bonus to employees in West Bengal

The Government of West Bengal, vide a notification dated September 15, 2021, had issued guidelines wherein it had requested employers to make timely payments of bonus or any ex-gratia amount to its employees before the commencement of Durga Puja. Key aspects of these guidelines are as follows:

  1. Employers, while taking note of statutory provisions under the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 ("Bonus Act"), should adopt a flexible attitude as regards payment of bonus.
  2. Establishments where bonus was paid in the previous year are requested to ensure that the rate of bonus payable this year is not lower than that of last year. In case of any dispute, the same may be settled amicably through negotiations. Employers are also requested to consider payment of an ex-gratia amount in lieu of bonus to those employees who have crossed the eligibility threshold prescribed under the Bonus Act.
  3. All employees (whether in casual employment, reemployed after retirement or employed through contractors) who have worked for not less than 30 days during the year should be paid bonus.
  4. Employers who are in default as regards payment of bonus for the previous years, were requested to make all such payments this year along with bonus for the current year.
  5. The Government also appealed to all trade unions, and employers' organizations to extend their cooperation so as to maintain a climate of industrial peace, and to exercise their good offices for peaceful and effective settlement of industrial disputes concerning bonus without any disruption of work.

Extension for mandatory seeding of Aadhar in UAN for filing ECR

The Employees' Provident Fund Organization ("EPFO") vide a circular dated September 11, 2021, has extended the time limit for mandatory seeding of Aadhar until December 31, 2021, in certain situations:

  1. Where the contributory members are in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.
  2. For industries such as beedi making, building and construction and plantations (tea, coffee, cardamom, pepper, jute, rubber, cinchona, cashew-nuts etc.) since these establishments are often situated in remote localities or in areas affected by insurgency, or there is frequent change in work sites and other attendant constraints.

For areas and industries/classes of establishments other than above, delay in filing ECRs for the wage months of August 2021 and September 2021 only in respect of EPF members due to non-seeding of Aadhaar in the UANs (Universal Account Number), should not be presumed as employer's default for levy of penalty and damages under Section 14B of the Employees' Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 ("EPF Act").

Tamil Nadu employers to provide seating facility for employees in shops and establishments

The Government of Tamil Nadu has introduced a bill (notification dated September 6, 2021) to amend the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947. As per this bill, employers in Tamil Nadu are required to provide seating facilities to their employees within the premises of the establishment. The bill seeks to provide relief to the employees who are made to stand for long hours, which results in health problems.

EPFO launches a drive to promote usage of e-nomination facility by employees

The EPFO, vide a notification dated August 23, 2021, has once again sought to promote the usage of e-nomination facility by employees. The EPFO had introduced this e-nomination facility on the EPFO Unified Portal vide a circular dated June 06, 2019 and had set out the following requirements / salient features in the context of availing this functionality:

  1. UAN of the member should be activated
  2. Verified Aadhaar number of the member should be linked with the UAN
  3. Mobile number of the member should be linked with Aadhaar
  4. Photo of the member to be available on the member's profile (member has to upload her/his photo in his profile section)
  5. Aadhaar details of all nominated family members would be required
  6. Photos of all nominated family members should be mandatorily uploaded
  7. Aadhaar based e-sign by the members in e-nomination
  8. Digitally signed nomination PDF should be available on the account

The purpose of implementing the e-nomination facility is to ensure that in the event of a member's sudden demise, their family members are able to easily access EPF and pension benefits based on the OTP received on their Aadhaar-linked mobile number.

Auto renewal of shops and establishments registration certificate in Andhra Pradesh

The Government of Andhra Pradesh, with the objective of improving the ease of doing business in the State, has (vide a notification dated August 14, 2021) automated the process of renewing the registration obtained under the Andhra Pradesh Shops and Establishment Act, 1988. The MeeSeva Online Portal will now allow employers to renew their registration certificate upon submission of documents and payment of the requisite fee.

COVID-19 Relief Scheme for Insured COVID-19 victims

The Employees' State Insurance Corporation ("ESIC") vide notification dated August 11, 2021, has notified the ESIC Covid-19 Relief Scheme ("Relief Scheme") under Section 19 of the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948. This Relief Scheme intends to provide financial support to the dependent(s) of the insured person who has succumbed to Covid-19. The dependents will receive 90% of the average daily wages of the deceased insured person in the manner prescribed under the Relief Scheme. The minimum relief to be provided under the Relief Scheme is INR 1800 per month.

EPFO has laid down clarifications with respect to eligible nominees under EPF, EDLI and EPS Scheme

The EPFO recently issued a clarificatory notification with respect to the eligible nominees under the EPF Act and schemes framed thereunder (i.e., the Employees' Provident Funds Scheme, 1952 ("EPF Scheme"), Employees' Pension Scheme, 1995 ("EPS Scheme") and the Employees' Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme, 1976 ("EDLI Scheme"). The notification reiterates the position under law and states as follows:

  1. For the purposes of the EPF Scheme / EDLI Scheme / EPS Scheme, the nominees of an unmarried member: (i) having a 'family' will be her/his dependent parents or any one or more of the family members; (ii) without a 'family', can be any other person
  2. For married members, the following will be the eligible nominees under the EPF Scheme / EDLI Scheme: spouse, children, dependent parents, deceased son's widow and children (one or more persons can be nominated with the share / percentage duly mentioned)
  3. Under the EPS Scheme, an unmarried member can nominate one person only. Married members can only nominate their spouse and children (this includes adopted children) for the purposes of benefits under the EPS Scheme.

The EPFO has also clarified that the nomination can be in favour of any person when a member does not have a family but if she/he subsequently acquires a family, the nomination would be deemed invalid, and the member will have to make a fresh nomination.

Madhya Pradesh has amended the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules

The Government of Madhya Pradesh, vide a notification dated August 2, 2021, has amended the Madhya Pradesh Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules, 1993 ("Rules") enacted under the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 ("Child Labour Prohibition Act"). The key amendments are as follows:

  1. The State Government is required to spread awareness and discourage employers from engaging/employing children and adolescents to work in their establishments. Inspectors (appointed under applicable law) are encouraged to report establishments which are non-compliant.
  2. The Rules however do allow a child to assist her/ his family members by working in family-owned enterprise subject to certain conditions.
  3. The Rules also list down obligations for an employer as regards employing a child artist for audio-visual or sports activities.
  4. In cases where it is suspected that a child has been employed at an establishment in contravention of the law, the Rules provide for the manner in which a child's age may be determined.
  5. The Rules also provide for compounding of offences by employers.

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