The Department of Labor oversees the Shop and Establishment Act, which governs locations where any kind of trade, business, or profession is practiced. The statute governs not only the operations of for-profit educational institutions, societies, charity trusts, printing businesses, and locations that handle banking, insurance, stock, and share brokerage. This act sets regulations for things like working hours, employee rest periods, opening and closing times, closed days, national and religious holidays, overtime labor, child employment laws, maternity leave, annual leave, sick leave, and casual leave, among other things.

Each state in India has a Shop and Establishment Act that varies somewhat. Nonetheless, all stores and commercial spaces located inside a state's borders are subject to the Shop & Establishments law of that state, according the Act. Shops can include godowns, warehouses, storerooms, and offices that offer services or sell goods at retail or wholesale pricing. This can include a store, a place of commerce, a hotel for guests, a restaurant, a theater, or any other type of established public entertainment or amusement. Moreover, establishment can also refer to any other business that the government defines through a notification that is published in the Official Gazette, as previously mentioned.


The main objective of labour laws include safeguarding employees' rights, maintaining safe working conditions and regulating business activities as well as relations between customers or employers and workers. For India, different Acts govern distinct sectors and working conditions. The Shops and Establishments Act first originated during the European Industrial Age in the 19 th century. These rights and safeguards are a result of centuries under uninterrupted struggle for each and every right.

After India's independence, further states were carved out and each of these emulated the Shops Act based on a unified model code. For instance, the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act was passed in 1948. In 2016, the government of India revised and amended the Model Shops & Establishments Act which was open for any state to adopt it. Maharashtra is once again a pioneer in adopting new Model SEA 2016. At the same time, it is projected that as business transforms over years then more states will enhance and adapt to the decade-old laws.


Any shop or other type of commercial establishment that opens for business has to file an application with the Chief Inspector as soon as possible and obtain a licence under Shop and Establishment Act License. Any licence application must contain the name of an employer, business address, its name, category as well as number of employees and other information required. After application submission and upon review by the Chief Inspector, there will be registration of this particular store or business facility and its owner receives a certificate as evidence. According to the regulations, it is necessary to periodically renewing registration certificate and prominent making of this certiecte in store or commercial enterprise.

Fifteen days written notice is required to be given by the occupier to Chief Inspector in case the store or establishment has made a decision of closing. Conducting an analysis of the closure request allows him to cancel registration certificate and strike off store or business establishment from register.


Several State Governments have passed the Shop and Establishment Act to control the working conditions of workers in stores, companies, restaurants, etc. As a result, the Act's purpose is to safeguard workers' rights by providing standard benefits to all workers, regardless of their industry or kind of employer. It is intended to control wage payment, terms of service, holidays, leaves, working conditions, overtime and extended work hours, maternity leave and benefits, and child employment regulations. The Weekly Holiday Act, 1942, which is the Central Government's legislation governing the granting of holidays, must be followed by all businesses. Nonetheless, there isn't a single Central Government Act that covers all aspects of work hours, wage payments, and workplace health and safety in industries. State governments have passed the Shop and Establishment Act in an effort to close this disparity. This will aid in controlling how businesses operating under their authority behave. The Tamil Nadu Shop and Establishment Act does not, however, apply to the following individuals or categories of establishments, hence they are not covered by the Act:

  1. Individuals working in management positions at any organisation.
  2. People whose jobs require them to travel, as well as those who work as carers and canvassers.
  3. Establishments in mines and oil fields that are owned by the Reserve Bank of India, local authorities, the Central and State governments, and cantonment authorities.
  4. The businesses in bazaars in locations where festivals or fairs are momentarily staged for a maximum of fifteen days at a time.
  5. Establishments that do not qualify as factories under the Factories Act of 1948 are subject to other laws currently in effect in the (State) with regard to the subjects covered by this Act. Furthermore, as periodically stated by the State Government, hospitals, facilities for the treatment or care of the sick, pharmacies, and drugstores are exempt from the rules governing shop opening and closing hours and holiday grants.


It has made it compulsory under Section 22-A of the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishment Act,1947, by an amendment act passed in September 2021 that every working person in the premise has to be provided with a sitting arrangement.

Section 22 A of the Act says that "The premises of every establishment shall have suitable seating arrangements for all workers so that they may make use of any opportunity to sit which might arise in course work and as a result never stand 'on their toes' throughout the day." It will be mandatory after this amendment , Traders/Owner would provide appropriate sitting facility to the employee and they cannot force them to stand.

It is significant to note here that the said amendment of Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishment Act, 1947 was based on a previous Amendment made in Kerala's Shop and Establishments Act namely The Kerala Shops & Commercial Establishment Act 1960.

In contrast to Tamil Nadu, Kerala's path to the aforementioned change was not straightforward; rather, it was the outcome of consistent protests by employees in stores, businesses, and organizations since 2010. Mrs. Palithodi Viji, a Keralan textile worker, is the woman behind this movement. She started the protest against the working conditions in the textile industry in 2007 after her employer turned down her request to use the restroom. The female employees had to use the restrooms in the surrounding malls because there were no restrooms in the shops. In order to address these circumstances, Mrs. Palithodi Viji established women's labor organizations such as "Penkottu" and subsequently "Asanghaditha Mekhela Thozhilali Union" (Workers Union of Unorganised Sector), which organized multiple demonstrations around the state.

In 2012, a saleswoman in Kozhikode lost her job after leaning against the wall when many customers were shopping at an open showroom. This resulted into a bitter struggle for the 'right to sit'. The protest was supported by workers from all over State, and in 2016 it came under national attention when Kerala government had to submit its report before NHRC and take appropriate action. So, to create a safe working environment for female employees and stop their sexual abuse at work the Kerala government amended this act by December of 2018.


The problem with provision 22-A is in the way it is written. It begins with a "shall," which means that all establishments must ensure that all employees have adequate seating. However, even with seating provided, employees may not be able to sit because the word "may" implies that employees may only sit if there is an opportunity (it is unclear what kind of opportunity is meant) that arises during the course of their work. This clause aims to help those employed mostly in the textile sector, who are required to stand all day without even being given breaks to use the restroom.

The issue with these kinds of social legislation is that it leaves the enforcement of the provisions unchecked, even with meager penalties for violations, and leaves the aggrieved parties with a burdensome process of consulting unions and writing representations to authorities, which, because of the power and influence of the employers, almost never see the light of day.


The Bill also aims to implement the welfare state objectives outlined in Article 42 of Part IV of the Indian Constitution's Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), which state that the state must provide for maternity relief and fair and humane working conditions. By offering employees at their locations humane working circumstances such seating arrangements, the state has supposedly put the guideline into practice.

Interestingly, though, Directive Principles of State Policy are non-justiciable rights under article 37 of the Indian Constitution, meaning that they cannot be enforced in court. The problem with laws aiming to implement the Directive Principles is that they are not enforceable due to a constitutional defect. According to Indian jurist HM Seervai, the Directive Principles can only be "enforced" at the polls and are merely political recommendations to the legislature.


It is highly unfortunate that after 74 years of independence we as a nation have failed to acknowledge "the right sit" and other basic rights such toilet facilities, the safety of women workers during working hours meal breaks at workplaces etc. In the Malls and shops, salespersons do not get chairs to sit on while working for 10-12 hours every day. These workers cannot sit even if there are no customers in the shops, which bears zero connection with their performance or productivity.


In summary, the Shop and Establishment Acts in India constitute fundamental legal frameworks that safeguard employees' rights while providing them with decent working conditions. One of the recent changes that brings about one step towards solving age-old issues such as workers' rights to sit by adding Section 22-. The effectiveness of this law however relies on two factors- its structure and enforceability. The real often fails to meet constitutional obligations for equitable and humane working situations; many employees continue being denied basic rights, such as adequate sanitary facilities and seating.

In order to bridge this difference between policy and action, increased accountability along with the more stringent implementation of labor laws are required in future. In addition, empowering employees and encouraging them to engage actively in labor unions and government processes strives for major modifications at the workplace level. Finally, all players have to espouse teamwork for cultivating decent work places which reflect a determination in saving social justice and fundamental rights of labor market in India.


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  3. Merlyn, & Merlyn. (2023, February 5). TN Shops and Establishment Act. Merlyn Law Firm - Best Lawyers In Chennai | Advocate In Chennai.
  4. Garg, R. (2023, January 2). Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1960 - IPLeaders. iPleaders.
  5. LegalitySimplified, & LegalitySimplified. (2023, June 2). Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments (Amendment) Act, 2023 - Legality simplified. Legality Simplified - Legality Simplified.
  6. Ahmed, A. (2023, October 13). Comments sought on draft amendment to Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Rules proposing to include provisions on registration of establishments, availability of first-aid facilities - Lexplosion. Lexplosion.

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