The Law Reviews – Labour and Employment Disputes Review – India – Edition 6


The Constitution of India confers powers to state governments and the central (federal) government to enact laws concerning employment and labour, except for certain  matters that are reserved for the central government.

A large number of labour laws exist on different aspects of labour, namely, fixation and payment of wages, social security, occupational health and safety, women and child labour, industrial relations, resolution and adjudication of industrial disputes, and equal opportunities, including opportunities for disabled and transgender individuals.

Currently, over 50 separate laws concerning employment and labour law are in effect in the country. The existing labour and employment laws can be categorised into the following categories:

a. laws enacted and enforced solely by the central government;
b. laws enacted by the central government and enforced both by the central and state governments;
c. laws enacted by the central government and enforced by the state governments; and
d. laws enacted and enforced by the various state governments which apply to respective states.

Given the plethora of laws that exist on the subject of labour and employment, we have discussed the following key employment disputes and procedures that apply thereto:

a. termination of employees;
b. disputes concerning sexual harassment; and
c. other employment matters

1. Classification of employees

Employees in India are broadly categorised into workmen and non-workmen. The Industrial Disputes Act 1948 (the ID Act) deals with settlement of industrial disputes, and provides statutory protection to workmen in certain matters, such as termination, transfers and closure of establishments. The ID Act, among other things, also deals with the transfer of business undertakings in relation to workmen.


The ID Act defines a ‘workman’ as any person who is employed in any industry to do any manual, unskilled, skilled, technical, operational, clerical or supervisory work for hire or reward, regardless of whether the terms of employment are express or implied.