Vide its office memorandum dated November 2, 2018, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India issued National Minimum Guidelines4 for setting up and running Crèches under Maternity Benefit Act, 2017 (Crèche Guidelines). Some of the key highlights of the Crèche Guidelines are as under:

I. There should be one crèche for every 30 (thirty) children which should be extended to children of age group of 6 (six) months to 6 (six) years of all employees including temporary, daily wage, consultant and contractual workers;

II. The location of the crèche facility should be at the workplace or within 500 (five hundred) meters from the premises of the establishment;

III. Appointment of one crèche personnel along with one helper for every 10 (ten) children in the age group of below 3 (three) years and for every 20 (twenty) children in the age group of 3 (three) to 6 (six) years. It also provides for appointment of a crèche-in charge if the number of children in crèche is more than 5 (five).

(i). Streamlining of the crèche timings, keeping in view the parents' working hours/ timings/ shifts in an establishment (assuming an 8 (eight) hours shift);

(ii). Every establishment must adopt a child protection policy. The Crèche Guidelines provide for a model child protection policy that can be adopted by establishments. The objective of this policy is to prevent child abuse in any form at establishment's workplace and within its operating hours. Such policy must provide for a complaints committee constituted by the establishment to receive complaints, conduct formal enquiries and recommend appropriate action for redressal and punishment;

(iii). Norms and Standards for a crèche have been provided which comprise the regulations for crèche environment, crèche equipment/ material, safety/ protection at the crèche, health practices, nutrition practices, hygiene and sanitation practices etc.

a) Crèche equipment/materialthe materials to be procured by crèche for its operations which includes certain nonrecurring expenses such as furniture, appliances, etc. and certain recurring expenses such as eatables, stationary, etc. The complete descriptive list of materials under recurring and non-recurring expenses are mentioned in annexure to the Crèche Guidelines,

b) Nutrition and health practices - sample immunization schedule, calorie requirement chart for different age group of children and the WHO standard growth-monitoring chart to monitor the growth of the children in the crèche. The sample meal charts for various age groups are also mentioned in annexure to the Crèche Guidelines which could be adopted by the establishments setting up crèche,

c) Crèche transactions- the activities to be organized for holistic development of children and provides for a curriculum depending on the age group of children in crèche. The Crèche Guidelines also outline activities to monitor the development of children in the crèche depending on the age of children;

(iv). The preferred age of crèche staff shall be between 20 to 40 years. Further, the workers are also required to undergo training and their appointments would be made on assessment of their skills, knowledge and attitude. Such training may be provided by different organizations who specialize in providing training of childcare workers. There is no specification on who can impart such training to the establishments;

(v). In order to monitor and supervise the functioning of crèche, a crèche monitoring committee is required to be set up by the establishments. The crèche monitoring committee would constitute 3 to 4 parents, crèche worker, crèche supervisor and human resource/ administrative officer.

It is seen that the Crèche Guidelines are likely to serve as a prototypical recommendations for all the States to appropriately incorporate these in their State specific maternity benefit rules.

1. Kerala Shops And Establishment Ordinance, 2018 The Government of Kerala vide notification dated October 4, 2018, promulgated an ordinance - Kerala Shops and Establishments (Amendment) Ordinance5 (hereinafter referred to as the "Ordinance") with a view to further modify the prevalent Kerala Shops and Establishments Act, 1960 (hereinafter referred to as the "Act"). The Act provides for registration of establishments, duties of employer, payment of wages, hours of work, leaves, holidays, overtime, intervals for rest, prohibited employment as in case of children, cleanliness, ventilation and lighting and penal consequences in the event of failure of compliance.

Below are some of the many amendments to stated sections of the Act, as introduced by the Ordinance:

(i). Section 2(6) - "Employee" means a person wholly or principally employed in, and in connection with, any establishment and includes apprentices or class of persons as may be declared by the Government.

(ii). Section 11 - Substitution of the said provision allows for grant of weekly holidaysa)

a) Every person employed in a shop or a commercial establishment shall be allowed in each week a holiday of one whole day provided that nothing in this sub-section shall apply to any person whose total period of employment in the week including any days spent on authorized leave, is less than six days.

b) No deduction shall be made from the wages of any employee in an establishment on account of any day on which a holiday has been allowed in accordance with this section and if such person is employed on the basis that he would not ordinarily receive wages for such day, he shall nonetheless be paid for such day the wages he would have drawn had the holiday not been allowed on that day.

(iii). Section 20 - No woman or any person who has not attained the age of seventeen shall be required or allowed to work whether as an employee or otherwise in any establishment before 6 A. M. or after 9 P. M. However, an employer may employ women employees between 9 P.M. and 6 A.M., after obtaining the consent of such women employees ensuring that no female employee is employed between those hours other than in groups consisting of at least five employees having a minimum of two female employees and adequate protection of their dignity, honor and safety, protection from sexual harassment and facility for transportation from the shop or establishment to the doorstep of their residence;

(iv). Section 21B - Newly introduced provision for seating facilities states that in every shop and establishment, suitable arrangements for sitting shall be provided for all workers so as to avoid 'on the toes' situation throughout the duty time, so that they take advantage of any opportunity to sit which may occur in the course of their work;

(v). Section 29 - Modifications have been made to the penal provisions increasing the amount of the prescribed penalties;

(vi). Section 30 - The registers, records and display of notices shall be maintained in electronic as well as physical form.

The Ordinance accords equality of working opportunities to the women in State of Kerala while ensuring their safety and protection. In order to ensure compliance to the provisions of the Act, stricter penalties have been imposed.




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