19. Equal Remuneration Legislation – Industrial Relations, Trade Unions, and Labour Legislation, 2nd Edition

Chapter 19

Equal Remuneration Legislation

Chapter Objectives

This chapter will enable students to:

  1. Explain the factors leading to the enactment of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, and its coverage
  2. Describe the provisions of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, relating to payment of equal remuneration and prohibition of discrimination in service matters
  3. Understand the penal clauses of the Act and provisions relating to its enforcement and disposal of claims and trial of offences
  4. Present an assessment of the effectiveness of the Act

Emphasis on Equality Between Sexes in Matters of Wages and Conditions of Employment

In almost all countries of the world, women workers have been paid lower wages in comparison to the wages of their male counterparts. This phenomenon existed in the past for a number of years and still exists in greater or smaller degree even today. The main contributing factors to this phenomenon have been their concentration in lower paid unskilled occupations, low level of productivity, their unsuitability for many jobs, their entry in the labour market for a relatively shorter period, customary or legal restrictions on job opportunities, inadequate organization among women workers and restrictions on their entry in trade unions, and reluctance of the employer to engage them for economic and other reasons. These factors explain the lower level of women workers in general. However, there has been widespread practice of paying lower wages to women workers even for the same or similar jobs on which both men and women workers are employed. Discrimination against women workers has been confined not only to quantum of wages, but has extended to other matters related to employment such as recruitment, promotion and discharge. With the spread of awareness concerning women’s rights at the international, national and other levels, the need for putting a curb on discrimination with women workers in matters of wages and other service conditions was widely asserted. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, is an outcome of such developments.

The principle of equal pay for equal work to men and women workers has been gaining increasing acceptance all over the world. In many countries, laws have been passed prohibiting discrimination between men and women in matters relating to payment of wages for the same or similar work. Article 39 under the Directive Principles of the State Policy of the Indian Constitution enjoins upon the state to secure equal pay for equal work for both men and women. In 1958, the Government of India ratified ILO’s Equal Remuneration Convention No.100, 1951 which calls for equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value. The convention also suggests that the principle may be applied by national laws or regulations, legally established or recognized machinery for fixing wages, collective agreements or by combination of these methods. The Equal Remuneration Recommendation (No. 90) suggests various procedures to be followed for ensuring a progressive introduction of the principle. With a view to giving effect to the Constitutional provisions as well as those of ILO’s Convention No. 100, the Equal Remuneration Ordinance was promulgated in September 1975. The Ordinance was replaced by an Act of the same name in 1976. The object of the Bill provides for ‘the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers and for the prevention of discrimination on the ground of sex, against women in the matter of employment …’

EQUAL REMUNERATION ACT, 1976

Scope

The Act applies to the whole of India. It shall come into force on such date, not being later than three years from the passing of the Act, as the central government may be notification appoint and different dates may be appointed for different establishments or employments [Sec.1].

The Provisions of the Act to have an Overriding Effect

The provisions of the Act will apply even when they are inconsistent with the provisions of any other law or with the terms of any award, agreement or contract of service, whether made before or after the commencement of the Act or with any instrument having effect under any law in force [Sec.3].

Some Important Definitions

Some important definitions under the Act are reproduced in Box 19.1.

Box 19.1

SOME IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS UNDER THE EQUAL REMUNERATION ACT, 1976

  1. Appropriate Government: (i) In relation to any employment by or under the authority of the central government or a railway administration, or in relation to a banking company, a mine, oilfield or major port or any corporation established by or under a central act, the central government and (ii) in relation to any other employment, the state government [Sec.2(a)].

  2. Employer: In relation to any establishment, factory, mine, oilfield, plantation, port, railway company or shop (i) belonging to, or under the control of, the central government or a state government, a person or authority appointed by the appropriate government for the supervision and control of employees, or where no person or authority has been so appointed, the head of the Ministry or department concerned; (ii) belonging to, or under the control of, any local authority, the person appointed by such authority for the supervision and control of employees or where no person has been so appointed, the chief executive officer of the local authority; (iii) in any other case, the person, who, or the authority which, has the ultimate control over the affairs of the establishment, mine, oilfield, plantation, port, railway, company or shop where the said affairs are entrusted to any other person, whether called a manager, managing director or by any other name, such person [Sec.2(c)].

  3. Remuneration: The basic wage or salary, and any additional emoluments whatsoever payable, either in cash or in kind, to a person employed in respect of employment or work done in such employment, if the terms of the contract of employment, express or implied, were fulfilled [Sec.2(g)].

  4. Same Work or Work of Similar Nature: Work in respect of which the skill, effort and responsibility required are the same, when performed under similar working conditions, by a man or a woman and the differences, if any, between the skill, effort and responsibility required of a man and those required of a woman are not of practical importance in relation to the terms and conditions of employment.

Words and expressions used in the Act but not defined will have the meanings as defined under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, [Sec.2(b)].

Duty of Employer to Pay Equal Remuneration

No employer shall pay to any worker, employed by him in an establishment or employment, remuneration, whether payable in cash or kind, at rates less favourable than those at which remuneration is paid by him to the workers of the opposite sex in such an establishment or employment for performing the ‘same work or work of a similar nature’. The Act prohibits an employer from reducing the rate of remuneration of any worker for the purpose of complying with the above provisions relating to payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature. If in an establishment or employment, the rates of remuneration payable before the commencement of the Act for men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature were different only on the ground of sex, then the higher (in cases where there are only two rates) or the highest (in cases where there are more than two rates) of such rates is to be the rate at which remuneration is payable, on and from the commencement of the Act. However, a worker is not entitled to the revision of the rate of remuneration payable to him or her before the commencement of the Act [Sec.4].

Prohibition of Discrimination in Recruitment or Other Conditions of Service

While making recruitment for the same work or work of a similar nature or in any condition of service subsequent to recruitment such as promotion, training or transfer, the employer is prohibited from making any discrimination against women except where the employment of women in such work is prohibited or restricted by or under any law in force. These provisions are effective on and from the commencement of the Act. However, these provisions are not to affect any priority or reservation for scheduled castes or scheduled tribes, ex-servicemen, retrenched employees or any other class or category of persons in the matter of recruitment to the posts in an establishment or employment [Sec.5].

Advisory Committee

For the purpose of providing increasing employment opportunities for women, the central and state governments are required to constitute one or more advisory committees to advise them with regard to the extent to which women may by employed in such establishments or employments, as specified by the central government. An Advisory Committee is to consist of not less than ten persons to be nominated by the appropriate government, of which one-half must be women. While tendering advice, the Advisory Committee should have regard to the number of women employed in the concerned establishment or employment, the nature of work, hours of work, suitability of women for employment, the need for providing increasing employment and such other factors as considered relevant by the committee. The Advisory Committee is empowered to regulate its own procedure. After considering the advice tendered by the Advisory Committee, and after giving to the persons concerned in the establishment or employment an opportunity to make representations, the appropriate government may issue directions for promoting employment of women [Sec.6].

Authorities for Hearing and Deciding Claims and Complaints

For the purpose of hearing and deciding complaints with regard to the contravention of any provision of the Act, and claims arising out of non-payment of wages at equal rates to men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature, the central and state governments have to appoint authorities, who are to be not below the rank of Labour Officers. The local limits of the authorities may also be defined in the same or subsequent notification. Complaints or claims are to be made before the authority in the prescribed manner. The authority is to decide any question arising as to whether two or more workers are of the same or similar nature. On the receipt of a complaint or claim, the authority, after giving the applicant an opportunity of being heard and after necessary inquiry may direct: (a) that payment be made to the worker of the amount by which the wages payable to him/her exceed the amount actually paid in case of a claim arising out of non-payment of wages at equal rates to men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature and (b) that adequate steps be taken by the employer so as to ensure that there is no contravention of any provision of the Act in case of a complaint relating to violation of its provisions. The authorities have all the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, for the purpose of taking evidence, enforcing the attendance of witnesses and compelling the production of documents.

An appeal against the order of an authority may be preferred to an appellate authority appointed by the appropriate government within thirty days of the order. After hearing the appeal, the appellate authority may confirm, modify or reverse the order appealed against and no further appeal is to be entertained against the order of the appellate authority. The appellate authority may waive the time limit of thirty days by thirty more days if the delay in preferring the appeal was due to sufficient cause. The amount due from an employer arising out of the decision of an authority can be recovered in accordance with the provision of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, [Sec.33C] relating to recovery of money from an employer [Sec.7].

Maintenance of Registers

Every employer is required to maintain prescribed registers and documents in relation to workers employed by him [Sec.8].

Inspectors

The central and state governments are empowered to appoint Inspectors for the purpose of making an investigation as to whether the provisions of the Act or the rules made under it are being complied with by the employers. An Inspector is deemed to be a public servant within the meaning of the Indian Penal Code. The powers of the Inspectors as specified under the Act are described in Box 19.2.

Box 19.2

POWERS OF INSPECTOR UNDER THE EQUAL REMUNERATION ACT, 1976

An Inspector is empowered at any place within local limits of his jurisdiction: (i) to enter at, any reasonable time, with such assistance as he thinks fit, any building, factory, premises or vessel; (ii) to require any employer to produce any register, muster-roll or other documents relating to employment of workers, and examine such documents; (iii) to take, on the spot or otherwise, evidence of any person for the purpose of ascertaining whether the provisions of the Act are being, or have been complied with; (iv) to examine the employer, his agent or servant or any other person in charge of the establishment or any premises connected therewith or any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to be, or to have been a worker in the establishment; and (v) to make copies, or take extracts from, any register or other documents maintained in relation to the establishment under the Act [Sec.9].

Penalties

Penalties for various types of offences are shown in Box 19.3.

Box 19.3

PENALTIES FOR OFFENCES UNDER THE EQUAL REMUNERATION ACT, 1976

  1. The following offences under the Act are punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to 10,000 or with both:

    1. Omission or failure of the employer to maintain any register or other document in relation to workers employed by him.

    2. Omission or failure of the employer to produce any register, muster-roll or other document relating to employment of workers.

    3. Omission or refusal by an employer to give any evidence or preventing his agent, servant or any other person in charge of the establishment or any worker from giving evidence.

    4. Omission or refusal by the employer to give any information.

  2. The following offences of the employer are punishable with fine which will not be less than 10,000 but not more than 20,000 or with imprisonment for not less than 3 months but not more than 1 year or both for the first offence, and with imprisonment which may extend to 2 years for the second and subsequent offences:

    1. Making any recruitment in contravention of the provisions of the Act.

    2. Making any payment of remuneration at unequal rates to men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature.

    3. Making any discrimination between men and women workers in contravention of the provisions of the Act.

    4. Omitting or failing to carry out the direction made by the appropriate government in regard to prohibition of discrimination in recruitment of men and women workers and provision of increasing employment opportunities for women [Sec.6 (5)].

A person who refuses or omits the production of a register or other document required by an Inspector or does not give a required information to him is punishable with a fine which may extend to five hundred rupees [Sec.10].

Offences by Companies

In case an offence under the Act has been committed by a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for the conduct of its business as well as the company, is deemed to be guilty of the offence and is liable to proceeded against and punished accordingly. If, however, it is proved that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence, he is not liable to punishment. In case an offence under the Act has been committed by a company and it is proved that the offence has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to, any neglect on the part of any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company, such a person is deemed to be guilty of that offence and is liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly [Sec.10, 11].

Cognizance and Trial of Offences

No court inferior to that of a metropolitan magistrate or judicial magistrate of the first class is empowered to try any offence punishable under the Act. Cognizance of an offence punishable under the Act can be taken only upon a complaint made with the sanction of the central or state government or an officer authorized by it. A complaint to a court can be made only within three months from the date on which sanction is granted [Sec.12].

Other Provisions

Power to Make Rules

The central government is empowered to make rules for carrying out the provisions of the Act. The matters on which rules may be framed inter alia include: (i) the manner in which complaint or claim relating to contravention of the provisions of the Act and non-payment of wages at equal rates to men and women may be made, (ii) maintenances of registers and other documents by the employer and (iii) other prescribed matters. The rules thus framed are to be approved by the Parliament [Sec.13].

Power of Central Government to Give Direction

The central government is empowered to give direction to the state government as to carrying into execution of the Act in the state [Sec.14].

The Act Not to Apply in Certain Cases

The provisions of the Act relating to requirement of equal treatment for men and women do not apply: if (i) the terms and conditions of a woman’s employment are, in any respect, affected by compliance with the law regulating the employment of women; or (ii) any special treatment is accorded to women in connection with the birth, or expected birth, of a child. In these cases, the requirement of equal treatment of men and women does not also apply as regards terms and conditions relating to retirement, marriage or death on any provision made in connection with retirement, marriage or death [Sec.15].

If, on consideration of all the circumstances of the case, the central or state government is satisfied that the differences in regard to the remuneration, or a particular kind of remuneration, of men and women workers in any establishment or employment is based on a factor other than sex, it may make a declaration to that effect, and any Act of the employer attributable to such a difference is not to be deemed to be a contravention of any provision of the Act [Sec.16].

In the event of any difficulty arising while giving effect to the provisions of the Act, the central government may make orders for the purpose of removing the difficulty but such orders are to be laid before each House of Parliament [Sec.17].

An Assessment

The Act is a progressive measure based on the principle of social justice and equality of sexes. The principle of equal pay for equal work for both men and women was emphasized as early as 1931, when the Karachi session of the Indian National Congress specifically adopted a resolution to that effect which, as promised, was incorporated under Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution. The Act embodies this directive. However, the factors that have contributed to the lower wages of women when compared to those of men such as their unsuitability for many jobs,1 concentration in less skilled jobs,2 restrictions on job opportunities,3 additional expenditure on their employment,4 low productivity,5 lack of bargaining power, relative immobility and lack of permanence in employment,6 and others have come to operate even today. In spite of the adoption of special measures for enhancing the social, economic and political status of women in the country, the situation has not appreciably changed and the forces that exercised a depressing influence on women’s wages in the past, continues to exist in varying degrees till date. It will be of interest, here, to mention the views of the Fair Wages Committee which said, ‘… Where employment is on piece-rates or where the work done by men and women is demonstrably identical, no differentiation should be made between men and women regarding the wages payable’.7 The Committee further held, ‘Where, however, women are employed on work exclusively done by them or where they are admittedly less efficient than men, there is every justification for calculating minimum and fair wages on the basis of a smaller standard family in the case of woman than in the case of man’.8 Prior to the enactment of the Equal Remuneration Act in 1976, even the government, a few central wage boards for instance those for plantations, and adjudication authorities had fixed lower rates of wages for women.9 From all these considerations, the Act is a bold step and, if implemented in a true spirit, will contribute to do away with an age-old discrimination suffered by them.

However, the application of certain provisions of the Act will involve difficulties. For example, the Act defines ‘same work or work of a similar nature’ as ‘work in respect of which the skill, effort and responsibility required are the same, when performed under similar working conditions, by a man or a woman and the differences, if any, between the skill, effort and responsibility required of a man and those required of a woman are not of practical importance in relation to the terms and conditions of employment’. Experience has shown that the determination of relativities in regard to skill, effort and responsibility involved in different jobs on an accurate basis is very difficult even for experts, not to speak of the enforcing Inspectors. The procedures adopted in this regard, for example, ‘job evaluation’, ‘time and motion studies’ and ‘job analysis’,10 have their inherent limitations. In this regard, Barbara Wootton says, ‘… equal pay for equal work is an attractive slogan in more than the restricted sense of equality as between the sexes. And job evaluation promises in addition the happy marriage so rarely found of science and equity…’.11 When interpretation of the various terms and comparison of various components involved difficulties even in countries where the methods used are highly developed, not much can be expected from the enforcing machinery and employers in India in this regard, especially when the Act applies to numerous industries and employments scattered over different parts of the country.

The Act prohibits the employer from making any discrimination against women in matters relating to recruitment, promotion, training, and transfer and so on. These personnel matters are such that they can be viewed and interpreted in a number of ways. The employer may not practice any discrimination against women in these matters, but the enforcing machinery may charge him of the offence, if an aggrieved woman protests against the decision of the employer on ulterior grounds. Similarly, the enforcing machinery may not find any fault of the employer, although he has actually discriminated against a woman and justifies it in his own way. Recruitment, promotion, training, transfer and other personnel issues are such matters in which not only the employers but also trade unions, governmental policies and legislative directions all are involved.

The establishment of advisory committees by the central and state governments with a view to providing increasing employment opportunities for women is of little significance in view of the massive problem of unemployment in the country. In India, unemployment is a serious national problem. When millions of people, including technically and professionally qualified, educated and trained persons in the country, whether men or women, are not able to get employment, a mere insertion of a clause in the Act for promoting women’s employment will serve no useful purpose. The magnitude of the problem is such that it calls for a multi-pronged attack from various sides.

In view of what has been explained above, it is quite natural to expect only limited number of infringements of Act coming to light. The number of violations of the Act detected in the central sphere varied between 2,000 and 5,000 per year during 1995–2004. In the states, the number stood only around two thousand per year during 1995–97.12

SUMMARY
  1. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, has been the outcome mainly of the provisions of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution which enjoin upon the state to secure equal pay for equal work for both men and women, and the contents of the ILO’s Equal Remuneration Convention No. 100, 1951, which has been ratified by the Government of India.
  2. The provisions of the Act apply even if they are inconsistent with the provisions of any other law or the terms of any award, agreement or contract of service whether made before or after the commencement of the Act or in any instrument having effect under any law in force.
  3. The Act, which applies to the whole of India, requires the employers of establishments or employments to pay equal remuneration to men and women for the ‘same work or work of similar nature’ and prohibits reduction of wages for securing equality of wages between sexes.
  4. The employer is also prohibited from making any discrimination with women in matters of recruitment, promotion, training or transfer, except in cases where employment of women in the work is prohibited or restricted by or under any law in force.
  5. The Act also provides for the constitution of Advisory Committees by the central and state governments to advise them with regard to the extent to which women may be employed in such establishments or employments as specified by the central government.
  6. The Act provides for the appointment of Inspectors for ensuring enforcement of the Act, and of Authority and Appellate Authority for disposal of claims.
  7. Other provision s of the Act relate to: penalties, cognizance and trial of offences, the power of the central government to make rules and the conditions under which the provisions of the Act will not apply.
  8. The Act is a laudable measure based on the principle of social justice and equality of sexes. However, many factors that accounted for relatively lower wages of women have come to operate, in one form or the other, even today. As such, complete equality of wages as between sexes is difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, ensuring payment of equal wages to men and women workers for the same work or work of similar nature may be ensured by legal compulsion. As regards checking discrimination with women in matters of recruitment, promotion, training or transfer by legislative instruments may not be effective for practical reasons.
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
  1. Explain the factors that led to the enactment of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, and describe its main objectives.
  2. Describe the provisions of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, relating to payment of equal remuneration to women and prohibition of discrimination with them in personnel matters.
  3. Define the terms ‘same work or work of similar nature’, ‘remuneration’ and ‘appropriate government’ as contained in the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
  4. Explain the provisions of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, relating to its enforcement, and the machineries for the disposal of claims and trial of offences.
  5. Present an assessment of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
KEY TERMS

 

Appropriate government

Employer

Remuneration

Same work or work of similar nature

Case Study 1

Can an employer pay lower wages to women employees for the same job with a different nomenclature?

Audrey D’Costa worked as a ‘confidential lady stenographer’ in Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co. Ltd. till 13 June 1977, on which date her services were terminated. After her services were terminated, she instituted a petition before the Authority appointed under Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, complaining that during the period of her employment, after the Act came into force, she was being paid remuneration at the rates less favourable than those at which remuneration was being paid by the company to the stenographers of the male sex in its establishment for performing the same or similar work. She claimed that she was entitled to recover from the company the amount equivalent to the difference between the remuneration which she was being paid and the remuneration which was being paid to the male stenographer who had put in the same length of service during the period of operation of the Act. The company opposed the petition contending that (i) the business which was being carried on by it was not one of those businesses notified under the Act [Sec.1(3)]; (ii) that there was no difference in the scales or grades of pay between lady stenographers and other male stenographers at the time when the case was pending before the Authority; (iii) that Audrey D’Costa and other lady stenographers who had been doing the duty as ‘confidential stenographers’ attached to senior executives of the company were not doing the same or similar work which the male stenographers were discharging and (iv) there was no discrimination in salary on account of sex. The company thus contended that provisions of the Act relating to payment of equal remuneration as contained in Section 4 of the Act had not been violated by it.

The Authority found that the business of the company, which rendered supportive services to water transport, operation and maintenance of piers, docks, pilotage, light-houses, loading and discharging of vessels etc., came under the purview of ‘water transport’ listed under the list of establishments and employments to which the Act had been made applicable under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act. After hearing both the parties, the Authority found that the male stenographers and lady stenographers were doing the same kind of work, but rejected the complaint, holding that in view of the settlement which had been arrived at in 1975 between the management and employees’ union under which lower remuneration was fixed for confidential lady stenographers, Audrey was not entitled to any relief. The Authority held that the company had not committed the breach of Section 4 of the Act as no discrimination on the ground of sex had been made. It accordingly rejected the plea of Audrey.

Aggrieved by the order of the Authority, Audrey filed an appeal before the Deputy Labour Commissioner, Bombay, who was the Appellate Authority appointed under the Act. The Appellate Authority came to the conclusion that there was clear discrimination between the male stenographers and the female stenographers working in the establishment of the company. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed by the Appellate Authority on 31 May 1986, and it directed the company to make payment of 7,196.67 paise which was the difference between the basic salary of Audrey and the basic salary of her male counterparts from 26.9.1975 to 30.6.1977, on which date her services came to be terminated. The company was also directed to pay to Audrey the difference in the amount of dearness allowance and contribute to the Employees’ Provident Fund account.

Aggrieved by the decision of the Appellate Authority the company filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court. The single Judge of the Court affirmed the order of the Appellate Authority, except that the Authority had committed an error as regards the period for which Audrey was entitled to relief, and directed the Authority to compute the amount afresh. Aggrieved by the decision of the single Judge, the company filed an appeal before the Division Bench of the High Court which dismissed the appeal on 24 November 1986.

Aggrieved again by the decision of the Division Bench of the High Court, the company filed a petition in the Supreme Court which delivered the Judgement on 26 March 1987. While disposing of the case, the Supreme Court made the following observations:

  1. Prior to the settlement of 1975, Audrey was getting a basic salary of 560 and a fixed D.A. of 525 per month making a total of 1,085 per month. Under the settlement her basic salary was reduced to 245 and D.A. increased to 935.25 paise per month making a total of 1,180.25 paise per month. On the other hand, her male counterpart who had put in service for an equal number of years was getting 585 as basic pay and 1,325.45 paise as D.A making a total of 1,910.45 paise per month. Thus, Audrey was getting every month 730.20 paise less than her male counterpart was getting.
  2. In regard to the contention of the company that the difference in remuneration of male and female stenographers was the result of a settlement reached with the union, the Court referred to Section 3 of the Act which unambiguously states that the provisions of the Act ‘shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law or in the terms of any award, agreement or contract of service, whether made before or after the commencement of this Act, or any instrument having effect under any law for the time being in force’. Thus the company could not rely on the terms of settlement of 1975.
  3. As regards the contention of the company that discrimination between male and lady stenographers had not been brought about on the ground of sex, the Court said that the confidential lady stenographers were doing practically the same kind of work which the male stenographers were discharging. The employer is, therefore, bound to pay the same remuneration to both male and lady stenographers, irrespective of the place where they were working, unless it is shown that women are not fit to do the work of male stenographers. In the present case, the place where employees worked is irrelevant for the purposes of the Act.
  4. The company had admitted that there was a common scale for both male and female stenographers, and as such placing Audrey in a lower scale at the time of fitment was not tenable.
  5. As regards the contention of the company that enforcement of the Act would be highly prejudicial to the management since its financial position was not satisfactory and the management was not able to pay equal remuneration to both male and female stenographers, the Court held that the applicability of the Act did not depend on the financial ability of the management to pay equal wages.

The Court ruled, ‘We do not find any ground to interface with the judgment of the High Court. The petition, therefore, fails and dismissed’.

[Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co. Ltd, v. Audrey D’ Costa, (1987) 2 SCC 469]

Questions

Do the provisions of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, apply where lower rates of minimum wages have been fixed for women workers compared to the wages of male workers for the same work under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948?

Do different nomenclatures for the same work for men and women workers justify the payment of the payment of unequal remuneration for them?

How will you define the term ‘the same work or work of similar nature’?

Can an employer covered under the Equal Remuneration Act reduce the wages of the male workers of his establishment to ensure equality of wages between sexes?

Does the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, permit revision of wages prior to the commencement of the Act for ensuring equality of wages between male and female workers?