The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 aims to provide for the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers and for the prevention of discrimination, on the ground of sex, against women in the matter of employment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. According to the Act, the term ‘remuneration’ means “the basic wage or salary and any additional emoluments whatsoever payable, either in cash or in kind, to a person employed in respect of employment or work done in such employment, if the terms of the contract of employment, express or implied, were fulfilled”. Nothing in this Act shall apply:- (i) to cases affecting the terms and conditions of a woman’s employment in complying with the requirements of any law giving special treatment to women; or (ii) to any special treatment accorded to women in connection with the birth or expected birth of a child, or the terms and conditions relating to retirement, marriage or death or to any provision made in connection with the retirement, marriage or death.
The Central Industrial Relations Machinery (CIRM) in the Ministry of Labour is responsible for enforcing this Act. CIRM is an attached office of the Ministry and is also known as the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) [CLC(C)] Organisation. The CIRM is headed by the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central).
The main provisions of the Act are:-
- No employer shall pay to any worker, employed by him/ her in an establishment, a remuneration (whether payable in cash or in kind) at rates less favourable than those at which remuneration is paid by him/ her to the workers of the opposite sex in such establishment for performing the same work or work of a similar nature. Also, no employer shall, for the purpose of complying with the provisions of this Act, reduce the rate of remuneration of any worker.
- No employer shall, while making recruitment for the same work or work of a similar nature, or in any condition of service subsequent to recruitment such as promotions, training or transfer, make any discrimination against women except where the employment of women in such work is prohibited or restricted by or under any law for the time being in force.
- Every employer shall maintain such registers and other documents in relation to the workers employed by him/ her in the prescribed manner.
- If any employer:- (i) makes any recruitment in contravention of the provisions of this Act; or (ii) makes any payment of remuneration at unequal rates to men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature; or (iii) makes any discrimination between men and women workers in contravention of the provisions of this Act; or (iv) omits or fails to carry out any direction made by the appropriate Government, then he/ she shall be punishable with fine or with imprisonment or with both.
- Where an offence under this Act has been committed by a company, every person who at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed, to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.