A new voluntary code of conduct has been introduced in sourthern India requiring clothing factories to stop putting teenage girls on night shifts in a bid to stop sexual harassment.
Under the code – introduced by the Southern India Mills’ Association (SIMA) – workers aged 16-19 will also be allowed to take time off during their periods and no one will be made to work more than nine hours in a day.
It also states factories should not employ workers under the age of 16 and addresses issues including maternity benefits, migrant workers and minimum wages and says women cannot be fired when they are pregnant. It also says factories must allow workers freedom of association and create effective grievance mechanisms.
While much of this is already required under Indian law, the new code is intended to help factories meet international labour standards as well as complying with legal requirements.
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Selvaraju Kandaswamy, secretary general of SIMA, said the guidelines have been put in place to help “manufacturers understand how an employee should be treated, right from recruitment to retirement.”
“We also want to create confidence in the mind of the global buyer that workers’ needs are being taken into account and we have zero tolerance to any form of abuse,” he added.
The introduction of the code allegedly follows complaints of abuse from the largely female workforce employed in India’s garment industry, with major hubs in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
An investigation last year found Indian garment suppliers for large brands including Hugo Boss, Mothercare, Debenhams and Primark were holding female workers captive in southern India.