Bombay HC: Employer Can Deduct The Wages Of Workers Voluntarily Remaining Absent

The Bombay High Court on Thursday held that the Management would be at liberty to deduct the wages of workers voluntarily remain absent even after the lockdown is lifted.

The petitioner herein has challenged the notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 29th March, 2020 by which powers conferred u/s 10(2)(1) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 have been invoked to ensure that the workers, including the migrants,would be paid their monthly wages by the employers taking into account the peculiar situation on account of COVID-19.

The petitioner said that though the Managements are willing to offer work to the workers and though the workers would be willing to perform the work, restrictions have been imposed on the continuance of the manufacturing activities so as to restrict the spread of COVID-19 and as a consequence of which, the Managements have been mandated to reduce/shut down their manufacturing activities.

The Advocate for the petitioners informed the court after taking instructions that the petitioners were willing to pay 50% of the gross wages or the minimum rates of wages prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, whichever is higher.

The Bombay High Court referred to the Supreme Court order in a group of matters, in Ficus Pax Private Ltd., Vs. Union of India and others, wherein a similar request by theemployers / Management of Industries, has been put forth. TheApex Court had directed that the group of petitions be listed after two weeks. No interim relief is granted.

Acting upon the plea, the single judge bench of Justice Ravindra V. Ghuge observed that as the Hon’ble Apex Court is dealing with a similar cause of action, I would not be inclined to interfere with the impugned order and would expect the petitioners to pay the gross monthly wages to the employees, save and exceptconveyance allowance and food allowance, if being paid on monthto month basis in the cases of those workers who are not required to report for duties.

The bench also clarified that since the State of Maharashtra has partially lifted the lock down recently in certain industrial areas in the State of Maharashtra, the workers would be expected to report for duties as per the shift schedules subject to adequate protection, from Corona Virus infections, by the employer. In the event such workers voluntarily remain absent, the Management would be at liberty to deduct their wages for their absence subject to the procedure laid down in Law while initiating such action. This would apply even to areas where there may not have been a lock down.

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