In the Constitution of India from 1950, articles 14-16, 19(1)(c), 23-24, 38, and 41-43A directly concern labour rights. Article 14 states everyone should be equal before the law, article 15 specifically says the state should not discriminate against citizens, and article 16 extends a right of “equality of opportunity” for employment or appointment under the state. Article 19(1)(c) gives everyone a specific right “to form associations or unions”. Article 23 prohibits all trafficking and forced labour, while article 24 prohibits child labourunder 14 years old in a factory, mine or “any other hazardous employment”.

Articles 38-39, and 41-43A, however, like all rights listed in Part IV of the Constitution are not enforceable by courts, rather than creating an aspirational “duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”. The original justification for leaving such principles unenforceable by the courts was that democratically accountable institutions ought to be left with discretion, given the demands they could create on the state for funding from general taxation, although such views have since become controversial. Article 38(1) says that in general the state should “strive to promote the welfare of the people” with a “social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life. In article 38(2) it goes on to say the state should “minimise the inequalities in income” and based on all other statuses. Article 41 creates a “right to work”, which the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 attempts to put into practice. Article 42 requires the state to “make provision for securing just and human conditions of work and for maternity relief”. Article 43 says workers should have the right to a living wage and “conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life”. Article 43A, inserted by the Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution of India in 1976, creates a constitutional right to codetermination by requiring the state to legislate to “secure the participation of workers in the management of undertakings”.


Labour law cover three aspects :

  • Industrial Relations
  • Workplace Health and safety
  • Employment standards


Minimum Wages Act, 1948

The objective of this Act is to provide minimum wages to the workers employed in the employments mentioned in the Schedule I of the Act such as employment in any rice mill, flour mill or dal mill or employment in any tobacco manufactory, etc. The appropriate government is empowered under the Act to fix minimum wages and revise them regularly. It also lays down provision for overtime wages. There are penalties under this Act too for non-compliance of the provisions by the employer.


Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948

The Act lays down provisions for benefits to employees such as sickness benefit, maternity benefit, disablement benefit, medical benefit and funeral benefit. Out of these, medical benefit is extended to the family members of the employee too and the funeral benefit is paid to the eldest surviving member of the family or in his absence, to the person who actually incurs the expenditure on the funeral. It is to be noted that all the benefits under this Act are paid in cash. The Act also provides for the establishment of Corporation, Committee, and Council etc. to implement the provisions of the Act effectively.

Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, Labour Welfare Fund Act (of respective States), Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 are some other laws which fall under this category.