Hyderabad: Some employers have been forcing employees to work without availing their statutory leaves or even weekly offs. From waiters to construction labourers, vendors and salespersons, several employees say they are even unaware of laws that guarantee them paid leaves and would still not dare speak up.
Anil Raju (name changed) who migrated to Hyderabad from a small town village in Andhra Pradesh, regrets taking the job of a waiter in a popular mess in Ameerpet, thanks to no offs "granted" by his employer. "I got married six months ago and convinced my wife to move with me to Hyderabad for a better life. I don't remember the last time I spent good time with her or took her out. I am now forced to look for another job because my current does not allow a weekly off, leaves are a distant dream," he told Deccan Chronicle.
He narrated the story of his former colleague and friend at the mess who was not allowed a weekly off to attend church. "He did not know of a life outside of regularly visiting the church on Sunday. He pleaded with the boss for just two hours on Sundays in exchange for overtime, but in vain. He left a few months back. I will too, soon," he said.
This is the story of not just Anil and his friend but many who work as waiters, construction labourers, vendors at tiffin stalls and even watchmen, Rajushared.
"Humari toh chaahkar bhi ghar waapsi nahi ho paa rahi," laughed Moinuddin, a labourer at a construction site in Nallakunta. His pain from wanting to visit home was evident despite his attempts to hide that with laughter. His parents in Bihar want him to return home so they can get his sister married. "My hands are tied due to a meaningless contract that I wasn't even aware of," he said.
Moinuddin hasn't seen in parents even during the Covid-19 pandemic for the fear that he would lose his job if he left Hyderabad. "I just stayed with my friends at a colleague's garage waiting in endless hope for work to resume," he recalled the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.
None of them dared open up about their right to weekly offs and sick leaves for fear of being replaced by those who wouldn't be "troublemakers."
Prabhavati Aartutla, who works at a tiffin centre in Gokhale Nagar gets an alternate weekly off but her husband and brother-in-law never do, unless really sick (and they have to prove the same). "My sister, Pranavi, who works as a sales girl in Vijayawada too, never gets any off. People like us, we make peace with such things. We're grateful we have a job that helps save up for my children." she told DC.
What the law says:
The Factories Act of 1948 and the Telangana Shops And Establishments Act, 1988, define rights of employees.
Factories Act provides annual leave of 12 working days for workers who have worked at least 240 days in a year and a provision for weekly rest.
Telangana Shops And Establishments Act, 1988 says no employee in any shop must be forced to work more than eight hours on any day and forty-eight hours in any week, unless they are paid an overtime fee.
"Workers are entitled to at least 24 hours of weekly rest on the first day of the week, i.e., Sunday or whichever day is available during the week. Even if workers are required to work on a weekly holiday, they are entitled to a substitute holiday three days before or after the usual weekly holiday. Every employee who has served for 240 days or more for 12 months is entitled to leave with wages for 15 days.
— Neha Devathake, Advocate