In early 2020, as India found itself in the grip of an unprecedented humanitarian and health crisis, nearly a dozen states decided to relax labour laws, ostensibly to spur economic growth and attract investments.[i] The relaxations fell in broadly two categories: (i) an increase in the maximum daily work hours, and (ii) exemptions from certain labour laws.[ii] Several states increased the maximum weekly work hours to 72 hours and maximum daily work hours to 12. Although quashed by the Supreme Court later[iii], the Gujarat Notification went as far as to suspend the requirement of paying overtime as mandated by the Factories Act, 1948[iv].
[i] Notification No. 958-02-2020-A-16, Labour Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh, May 5, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/4989.MP_exemptions under labour laws_May05.pdf
[ii] The Madhya Pradesh Labour Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, State Legislative Brief PRS LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH (29 March 29, 2022), https://prsindia.org/bills/states/the-madhya-pradesh-labour-laws-amendment-ordinance-2020
[iii] Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha & Anr. v. The State of Gujarat WP (Civil) No. 708 of 2020.
[iv] Sections 51 and 54.