Extent of Protection
In India, the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 or the ERA mandates the payment of equal remuneration to male and female workers undertaking similar tasks or work of a similar nature. The ERA also provides for the prevention of discrimination on grounds of sex against women in matters connected with respect to employment, such as recruitment, promotion, etc. This legislation not only provides women with a right to demand equal pay, but also holds employers accountable for any violation of the ERA.
While the ERA extends protective provisions in favor of women, the Code on Wages has taken a gender-neutral approach and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender in matters relating to wages.
The principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ has also been enumerated under Article 39 (d) of the Indian Constitution, which requires the State to strive for securing equal pay for equal work, for both men and women.
Under the ERA, an employee has the right to file a complaint with the concerned labour authorities with respect to contravention of the provisions of the ERA on the part of the employer, or for claims that arise out of non-payment of wages, at equal rates, to men and women. The appropriate labour authority, after verifying the merits of the case, may initiate an inquiry into this matter and take the appropriate action (as it may deem fit).
Further, under the ERA, employers are required to maintain registers which should contain the particulars of the remuneration of its employees. The inspector appointed under the ERA has the right, at any point in time, to inspect the register if there is any suspicion of a violation of the ERA on the part of the employer, or if a complaint has been filed by an employee, alleging violations of the provisions of the ERA.
Over the years, the principle of equal pay for equal work has evolved through judicial precedents. Indian Courts have held that discrimination based on gender only arises when men and women perform the same work or work of a similar nature. For differences in educational qualifications or for those relating to responsibility, reliability or confidentiality, the principle of equal pay for equal work would not apply.
The constitutional principle of ‘equal pay for equal work‘ has been upheld by Indian Courts with respect to temporary employees’ vis-à-vis permanent employees in the government sector, where temporary employees performing similar duties and functions as permanent employees, are entitled to draw wages at par with similarly placed permanent employees. The principle is required to be applied in all cases where the same work is being performed, irrespective of the class of employees.
At this stage, there are no other legal requirements that exist in India.