The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 – Law School Notes

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  • The concept of minimum wages is for the State to fix a minimum threshold for the per hour / per day wages to be payable by the employer to workmen. Paying less than the minimum wage is unlawful. Minimum wage is for “bare subsistence”.
  • The purpose of minimum wages is to make sure that a reasonable threshold is fixed that achieves social as well as economic ideals.
  • In achieving this objective, industrial adjudication takes into consideration principles like principle of comparable wages, productivity of the trade or industry, cost of living and ability of the industry to pay.
  • The application of these principles lead to different categories of wage structures, usually described at the living wage, fair wage, minimum wage.
  • The fixation of a wage-structure is a delicate task because balance has to be struck between the demands of social justice to give workmen their proper share in national income which they help to produce, and depletion of profits which motivates running of an enterprise.
  • Section 3 of the Act requires the appropriate government to fix the minimum rate of wages payable to employees employed in respect of the work specified in Part I or Part II of the Schedule to the Act. The Schedule can be amended by the appropriate government from time to time by way of a notification.
  • The wages may be fixed for the whole State or separately for parts or areas of the State.
  • The government is also required to review the rates every five years and revise them if necessary.
  • The government may fix the wage on time rate basis or piece rate basis.
  • The government may fix a separate rate for overtime.
  • Different rates may be fixed for different scheduled employments; (ii) different classes of work in the same scheduled employment; (iii) adults, adolescents, children and apprentices; (iv) different localities.
  • Section 3 of the Act requires the appropriate government to fix the minimum rate of wages payable to employees employed in respect of the work specified in Part I or Part II of the Schedule to the Act. The Schedule can be amended by the appropriate government from time to time by way of a notification.
  • The wages may be fixed for the whole State or separately for parts or areas of the State.
  • The government is also required to review the rates every five years and revise them if necessary.
  • The government may fix the wage on time rate basis or piece rate basis.
  • The government may fix a separate rate for overtime.
  • Different rates may be fixed for different scheduled employments; (ii) different classes of work in the same scheduled employment; (iii) adults, adolescents, children and apprentices; (iv) different localities.
  • These wages have to be paid in cash and not in kind, except if under special circumstances the government authorizes payment in kind in specific cases.
  • Contravention of the provisions of this Act is punishable with imprisonment or fine or both.
  • Section 15 – Wages of worker who works for less than normal working day.
  • If an employee whose minimum rate of wages has been fixed under this Act by the day works on any day on which he was employed for a period less than the requisite number of hours constituting a normal working day, he shall, save as otherwise hereinafter provided, be entitled to receive wages in respect of work done by him on that day as if he had worked for a full normal working day: Provided, however, that he shall not be entitled to receive wages for a full normal working day, in any case where his failure to work is caused by his unwillingness to work and not by the omission of the employer to provide him with work.

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