There are some very promising areas of law that lawyers do not take full advantage of. Labour and employment law is one of them. Combined with industrial laws it makes a very powerful combination. There are amazing opportunities both in terms of working as in-house lawyers, joining labour and employment team of law firms as well as build your own practice or consultancy as a labour and industrial law advisor and litigator.
Labour law was one of the subjects that really intrigued me when I was in law school. There so many new issues around labour and employment law, but why do they teach us a bunch of mostly irrelevant and extremely outdated things in name of labour law in law school? Sure, we need to know the basic concepts, and they taught that in law school, but highly important and relevant issues of our times were left out.
I was going through a few syllabuses of some of the top law schools last year. Things have not changed.
The result is that labour law has a pretty bad image with budding (and even most of the grown up) lawyers. It is often considered right next to CPC in being boring and maybe just above human rights law in terms of low potential for making money. At least that’s the perception that most lawyers and law students have.
I will tell you my experience. We began to offer a labour law course in 2016. It became popular quickly with HR managers, IR professionals, company secretaries and other compliance professionals. The percentage of lawyers who take the course is under 20%. All other law courses boasts of at least 50% of candidates from legal background.
However, it is a myth that labour law is boring or that you can’t make money as a labour lawyer. There is a huge amount of labour law work that is up for grabs, for several reason, and the biggest reason an upcoming lawyer should consider becoming an expert of labour laws is that there is very low competition for it. Let the rest of the world think that labour law is not sexy and miss out the opportunities, if you are looking for a break and willing to go for a relatively uncommon area of law, keep reading.
And of course, I need not tell HR managers or IR professionals about how valuable labour and employment law, coupled with industrial law, can be for their career. The subject is taught in MBA courses, but very poorly.
If you want thorough practical knowledge of labour laws as well as industrial laws, we have a course for you. However, before that, it is very important to understand a few important dynamics about labour law to fully recognize where the career opportunities are arising.
Labour law is changing
One of the biggest complaints of India Inc has been that labour laws are complex in India. On the other hand, a large part of the Indians employed in jobs do not have protections of labour law as it is old and focuses on the manufacturing sector more and leaves out the service sector, which employ a large number of people. That is slowly but decisively changing.
The current government has an agenda of simplifying the labour laws. While no sweeping reforms has been made, some of the recent amendments have changed the nature of the game.
Take the Payment of Wages Act, for instance. The ceiling of salary, with respect to which employees it apply to, has been raised recently to INR 24,000, bringing a large number of employees under its umbrella and companies for whom it has suddenly become very relevant.
Similarly, a very interesting situation has presented itself after the recent amendments of the Maternity Benefits Act as women how have to be given 6 months of paid holiday when they get pregnant while they are employed. Given that churn of employees leaving is high in the private sector, and employees often leave within 1 or 2 years of joining a job, it has very cumbersome for employers who don’t expect employees to stay beyond a year or two, to hire married women. Legal claims of maternity benefits being denied as well as companies looking to defend themselves against such claims is suddenly on the rise.
For a long time, labour law was not a very viable career unless you wanted to work for factories and labourers. That is not the case any more. With every amendment and reforms, now you can expect more and more labour law/employment disputes involving white collar employees, where stakes are higher and volume is unprecedented.
And what is unfortunate, is that there are very few lawyers in the market to tap into these opportunities with any credible skills or knowledge of labour law.
Money Recovery Claims by employees are on the rise, and lawyers and other consultants can help
There is over 64,000 crore rupees unclaimed provident fund dues lying with the government. The people to whom that money is owed do not know how to do the necessary paperwork.
Ask any decent civil lawyer, they would be often approached by people who could not get their PF money. It could be because an employer fraudulently did not deposit with the government though they were required to, or because they have lost some important paper.
It is a similar thing with gratuity, accident benefits, compensation under different statutes. We have an article on gratuity related laws in India on iPleaders blog, which is read by over 1000 people a day. Many of them leave queries about which lawyer can help them. See the comments if you don’t believe me. It is extremely difficult to find lawyers who are willing to or have the experience and skills to recover these amounts. It is not only lawyers, but other advisors and professionals can also provide services around these.
A similar case can be made about unpaid salary. Lawyers are swamped by requests from employees who have not been paid by employers or fired without due compensation to find them proper legal representation.
Do a simple math. If someone has INR 3 lakhs of unpaid salary, or PF dues, will they be willing to pay you INR 30,000 to recover it on their behalf? Do a little research right now for yourself and see if you had such a case, how easy or difficult will it be to find a credible lawyer who could do it at that price for you?
If you want to establish your own law practice, instead of chasing wild geese, money recovery for these people can be a golden practice. There is certainly no reason why a lawyer could not very rich helping out these rather helpless people if they would focus on the same and had the know-how to get it done.
In the New Economy, Employers desperately need help with labour and employment matters
Why are HR managers and in-house counsels with good labour law skills highly sought after?
For every new age company that relies on knowledge economy and highly skilled employees, there are dozens of cases of employees every year of not respecting non-compete or non-solicit obligations, or engaging in data theft, or simply running away with company property (such as laptop, mobile phones, client lists, sim cards, equipment provided to them) when they quit.
There are many more complex situations. Should a company have a dating policy? What about a conflict of interest policy? Do they need to change their agreement if they send an employee on secondment?
It is a major challenge for startups and SMEs, and for big companies. The big companies mostly rely on in-house lawyers to handle such things. SMEs have really few options. Lawyers who can help them to deal with such situations, write the correct policies, help them to fight false allegations from employees are really in demand. It’s easy to land retainership contracts with these companies for handling such situations.
This also presents a great opportunity to HR managers and management professionals as these services can very well be provided by them as well.
In-house counsels and personnel managers need to be good with labour and employment laws
If you want to be an in-house counsel, at the entry level, there is no way to get around labour law. Unless you are a hotshot M&A lawyer hired at a senior level to run acquisitions for the group, expect about half of your work to involve employment and labour law work. There is a reason HR managers and IR professionals are taking up labour law courses in large numbers. You better stay ahead of the game if you want to work as a young lawyer in in-house legal team.
Every major manufacturing company needs labour law experts
Want to work in the compliance department of a manufacturing company? You better be good with your labour laws. Good news is that manufacturing is seeing a comeback in India, with major investments being made over the last decade, and especially Make in India campaign. It is at focus of government policy, and while it is going through some tough times at the moment, it is bound to go up in the long run. If you want to work as a corporate lawyer or compliance specialist or even HR manager in a large manufacturing company, you better sharpen your labour law skills. And you will definitely need a lot more than the usual labour law text book.
What is the way forward?
Labour law regime in India is a maze. There is a multiplicity of laws applicable to any given situation. Further, disparate central and state laws across India pose various challenges for organizations in treating people uniformly, framing policies, having a standard remuneration structure and definitely, the situation makes compliance challenging.
Demystification of these labour laws is critical – knowing which law applies when will solve one part of the problem. Next, a deeper conceptual understanding of the frequently faced provisions in real life is important so you can deal with practical problems with ease.
Consequences of violation are serious, leading to fines and even imprisonment for directors. Many compliance issues in India are currently informally settled through consultants (illegally). This method is too risky, unsustainable and illegal.
India is also swiftly climbing the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, and labour law reforms are one of the components of this. That does not mean that you can comply with the law in one-click of a mouse. The process will take time, and you need to acquire skills yourself to be able to understand and implement these reforms appropriately.
Would you like to acquire skills that enable yourself and organizations to achieve the following objectives? Then read further.
Create and execute appropriate documentation with your team to achieve the organization’s commercial intent
Implement appropriate and customized policies as per the need of your organization
Enforce appropriate consequences for disciplinary violations (legally)
Minimize employment-litigation risk
Create implementation and compliance management frameworks for any organization, including large organizations with different kinds of operations, workplaces and pan-India presence
Acquire unique and specialized expertise about industries such as construction, mining and railways
Major Labour Legislations Covered
Apprentices Act, 1961
Building And Other Construction Workers (Regulation Of Employment And Conditions Of Service) Act, 1996
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
Contract Labour Act, 1970
Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952
Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948
Factories Act, 1948
Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1976
Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
Standing Orders Act, 1976
Maternity Benefits Act, 1961
Maharashtra Recognition Of Trade Union And Prevention Of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971
Minimum Wages Act, 1948
Sales Promotion (Employees Conditions of Services) Act, 1976
Trade Unions Act, 1965
Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
Payment of Gratuity, 1972
Payment of Wages Act, 1936
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2013
Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923
* Service law concepts for Central/ State Public Services and PSUs are not covered.
Who should take this course
Decision makers, Industrial and factory managers, project managers, labour officers in manufacturing, construction, mining, services, shipping, transportation, facility management and other manpower heavy sectors
HR professionals in manufacturing and services sector
Compliance specialists, company secretaries and chartered accountants who wish to help their clients to comply with labour laws
Law students and lawyers who want to excel in labour and employment law related matters
Labour law practitioners – both consultants and litigators
Law students looking to work in law firms in labour and employment law teams
Entrepreneurs and directors who want to master legal aspects of labour and industrial laws
What is the career potential after doing this course
If you are among industrial and factory managers, HR professionals, company secretaries, labour law practitioners, law students and lawyers who are working or want to work on labour and employment law related matters, you may find the following skills very valuable:
Creating and executing appropriate documentation with your team to achieve the organization’s commercial intent
Implementing appropriate and customized policies as per the need of your organization
Enforcing appropriate consequences for disciplinary violations (legally)
Minimizing employment-litigation risk
Creating implementation and compliance management frameworks for any organization, including large organizations with different kinds of operations, workplaces and pan-India presence
Acquiring unique and specialized expertise about industries such as construction, mining and railways.
Understanding the basic laws applicable to labour in India and getting and idea of the compliance required under these
Managing risks and developing systems in relation to employees and workers
Contractual arrangements with employments and workers – requirements in relation to social security and other legislation as well as in relation to remuneration and incentives
Dealing with employment and incentivisation of top executives
Creating various employment related policies
Specific legislations which are applicable for the industrial and manufacturing sector, including the establishment and working of trade unions
Dealing with labour disputes
Specific legislation applicable to contract labour
Specific legislation applicable to different occupations such as cinema workers, journalists, mining industry workers etc.
Preventing sexual harassment at workplace
The course is filled with a variety of takeaways such as compliance checklists, sample policies, various agreements and ESOP plan
HR tech startups
Big 4 consultancy companies