Labor law is a concurrent subject in the Indian Constitution, which implies that labor and employment regulations in the country are governed at both the federal and state levels. The main federal statutes that regulate the termination of employment include the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act (IESA), 1946 and the Industrial Disputes Act (IDA), 1947, as amended.
In addition, the Indian labor is regulated by the Shops and Establishments Act, which is enacted in most states with minor differences in rules of implementation. The Shops and Establishments Act regulates labor and employment in all premises where a trade, business, or profession is carried out. Further, the implementation of respective state laws differs according to the area of operations of the employer—these are outlined in the laws and their supporting rules.
Absence of a Standard Termination Process
Given the structure of Indian labor laws, there is no standard process to terminate an employee in India:
- An employee may be terminated according to terms laid out in the individual labor contract signed between the employee and the employer.
- Equally, the terms may be subject to the country’s labor laws. Here, employers should note that India’s labor laws supersede the provisions of labor contracts—any termination policy or clause outlined within a contract should be checked against the law by a professional.
- In cases where there is no labor contract, or the labor contract does not define a method of termination, the matter comes under the jurisdiction of the specific state’s labor legislation. This is because Indian federal law does not explicitly require that employment contracts be in written form. The new labor codes, which are due to be notified soon by the federal government, further make the termination process more flexible for the employers.
Indian law mainly recognizes two types of employers and two types of employees.
- The types of employers include:
- Establishments – this term takes all kinds of employers under its umbrella.
- Factories – this term specifically refers to employers in the manufacturing sector.
- Types of employees include:
- Employees – a term which refers to all employees in any kind of job position.
- Workmen – this term was defined in 1947. Employees who are not employed in administrative, supervisory, or managerial roles are termed as workmen.
Types of Termination of Employment
Voluntary termination means that an employee voluntarily terminates their employment with a company. This might involve personal reasons on behalf of an employee, such as getting a new and better job, resigning from a field, or starting up their own venture.
This might also be due to professional reasons, because of constructive dismissal. Constructive dismissal refers to a situation where an employee is dissatisfied with their workplace. They may be facing harassment, low wages, long work hours, long commute, etc.
Forced discharge of employees from an organization also falls under construction dismissal. An employee facing a forced discharge may be eligible for some form of unemployment benefits. Voluntary termination requires an employee to hand in a formal letter of resignation to the employer. The standard notice period is 30 days. But this term may be shorter depending upon the organization.
Involuntary termination is when an employee is made to leave an organization against their own free will. A company may opt for involuntary termination during layoffs, firing employees, downsizing, etc.
Layoffs and downsizing
Layoffs and Downsizing refer to a company reducing its workforce. Employees who are downsized are usually let go without their own fault. Companies downsize to save costs and restructure their workforce. Downsizing is common when a company is bankrupt or goes for a merger. Layoffs may also happen because an employee’s skill set is no longer useful for a company in the present day.
Employees may be fired from their jobs due to unsatisfactory work performance, or because their behaviors and attitudes cause trouble at the workplace. In many countries, including India, an employee who is fired for misconduct need not be given a 30-day notice. Employees that are fired for violating company policies must be given a chance to explain themselves before they are fired.
An employer is in complete charge of hiring and firing people in their organization. However, an employer cannot fire an employee without sufficient cause or reason. Terminating an employee based on caste, race, color, gender, etc. are illegal causes of termination in many countries. An employee who has taken maternity leave or a leave of absence or has reported wrongdoings in an organization cannot be fired on these grounds.
If your company is found guilty of wrongfully terminating employees in India, you would be liable to compensate them and restore their job positions or offer similar ones. Companies might also be penalized if found guilty of wrongful termination.
Termination under Contract
Termination under contract occurs on specific, predetermined terms that are set at the time when an employee is offered the contract. For instance, advisors for
private firms and internships are often offered for a specific time frame. At the end of this time frame, the employee is considered to be terminated, unless they are offered another contract, or the existing contract has been renewed.
The salary compensation and other benefits are according to the terms and conditions of the contract. However, a notice period of one month and one month’s compensation is required for terminating contractual employees.
Termination by Law
Any termination needs to comply with federal and state law because these laws supersede contract provisions. However, state law becomes particularly important when no defined procedure for termination exists. In such scenarios, state law becomes the rule of thumb for terminating an employee. State law itself is dependent on the area of operations of the employer.
State Labor Law in Respective Indian States
Termination of employees in your organization must comply with your state laws and central laws. Any contract provisions or termination notices can be overridden by these laws if found that your organization is non-compliant.
Most states in India detail their policy for employee termination. Also, certain sectors like manufacturing, plantations, etc. also receive protection under central government regulations. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the employee termination policy in some major Indian states.
State Labor Law in Maharashtra
Under the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act of 1948, an employer cannot terminate an employee who has been working with the organization for more than a year without giving 30 days’ notice period at least. If the employee has been with the organization for less than a year but has exceeded three months, he has to be given a minimum notice period of 14 days. However, employees who are terminated for misconduct may be terminated without the notice period.
State Labor Law in Delhi
The Delhi Shops and Establishments Act of 1954 is very similar to Maharashtra Act. In Delhi, employers are required to give a notice period of at least 30 days for terminating employees who have been employed for more than three months, or they can be given a salary in lieu of such notice. The employer does not need to give a notice period if the reason for termination is misconduct. However, the employee must be given a chance to explain himself/herself against any misunderstandings or allegations.
State labor law in Karnataka
Under The Karnataka Shops and Establishments Act, 1961 and the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, an employee who has been with the organization for more than six months cannot be terminated suddenly without a reasonable cause. The employee must be given a notice period of at least 30 days. Employees terminated for misconduct can be terminated immediately without any compensation or notice.
State Labor Law in Andhra Pradesh
According to the Andhra Pradesh Shops and Establishments Act, 1988, The notice period of an employee who has given the service of at least 6 months, there would be no notice period. The employee has the right to tell and explain the Separation in the notice of Resignation letter.
State Labor Law in West Bengal
The employer shall give a notice period to the employee of 30 days according to the law. Even if there is no employee eligible for gratuity payment, the Act is still applicable to the establishment. This can take place within 30 days of termination.
State Labor Law in Rajasthan
According to the Rajasthan Shops & Commercial Establishments Act, 1958 no employee how has been in continuous employment for a period of fewer than 6 months can leave the organization without giving him a month’s notice period.
Termination Rules for Employees in India
The employee termination decision most probably falls under one of the reasons described above. Whatever the cause of firing the employees, certain federal and central rules must be followed by every organization. Here are the six important rules that one must abide by before terminating one’s employees.
- A 30-to-90-day notice period is standard for terminating the workforce in one’s organization. Stated under the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, the law mandates that when terminating more than 100 members working in a manufacturing plant, mine or plantation unit, government approval is required. Terminating employees in other sectors requires only a government notification.
- Under Indian labor laws, an employee can be lawfully terminated from an organization for one of the following reasons:
- Disobedience or will full insubordination
- Fraud, dishonesty, or theft
- Loss or Damage to the employer’s goods willfully
- Taking bribes or illegal gratifications
- Absence without applying for leave for more than 10 days
- Late attendance
- Disorderly behavior during work
- Negligence of work
- When organizations terminate their workforce for convenience, the policy regulates that the last person to join the organization must be the first one to leave. Also, when the organization rehires for the same or similar job roles, the terminated workforce should be prioritized.
- When an organization fires an employee for convenience who is pregnant or seeking maternity leave, they run the risk of non-compliance with the Maternity Benefit Act of 2017 in the Indian constitution.
- Non-solicitation clauses can be used in a limited fashion, whereas non-compete agreements cannot be enforced according to Indian law.
- Most states in India have laws that allow for up to 10-15 days of paid leave in a year. In addition, employees can get up to 10 days of sick leave, and another 10 days of casual leave. Employees seeking leave under these criteria cannot be considered terminated.
Employee Termination Checklist
Here’s a quick checklist that outlines some of the procedures that one must follow when terminating employees.
1. Consult the company’s HR policies
Before serving a notice of termination to any employee, one must examine the company’s HR rules and policies. Every company has a specific set of procedures for dealing with different scenarios.
2. Refer to the employee agreement
The employee agreement will contain provisions relating to the notice period, severance pay, compensation and so on that must be offered to the employee upon termination. This agreement is often signed at the beginning, and it serves as an important reference that holds up in a court of law.
3. Serve a notice
Serving a notice is a crucial part of employee termination. The severance notice must be given 30 to 90 days before termination. This notice must be given in writing, stating a clear reason as to why the employee is being terminated.
4. Settle the severance pay
Severance pay is offered to employees who retire, are laid off, or reach the end of the contractual agreements.
- One month’s salary must be paid to employees who have worked for a year or more.
- For mass termination in protected sectors, three months of wages must be offered to employees.
- The Payment of Gratuity Act entitles employees to gratuity payment after five years of continuous service.
- The Industrial Disputes Act of 1972, also states that retrenched (involuntarily dismissed) workmen must be given 15 days of severance pay for each year of service that they have completed.
5. Conduct an exit interview
Exit interviews help an organization to gain feedback and evaluate their work culture, environment, ethics etc. It also helps organizations to narrow down their areas of improvement when it comes to enhancing employee experience in the office.
Employee Protection and Court Jurisdiction in Case of Disputes
An employee who has been dismissed has a legal right to appeal to their jurisdictional authority. The employee could appeal to a court for one of the following reasons:
- The employer has terminated an employee without stating a specific reason.
- The employee has not been proven to be guilty of misconduct and pleads innocence.
- The employee feels that their dismissal was based on unfair grounds.
When an employee seeks redressal of any of the following grievances, they must first establish a case and seek the approval of their local labor authorities. Once the approval is granted, the case may be overseen by jurisdictional conciliation officers, industrial tribunals, or labor courts. The Indian Industrial Act of 1947 seeks to address grievances for workmen in an industrial workforce.
Most workforce disputes in India take anywhere between six months to two years to get resolved.
The exact policy for terminating employees will vary depending upon the state in which the organization is established. Different states have their own set of Acts and are governed by slightly different jurisdiction practices.
In addition, the company’s core values, beliefs, and work systems also influence the employee termination procedure.
When terminating employees, an organization must always ensure that they have the necessary documentation in place, along with a valid cause for terminating employees. All communication must be routed through formal channels so that they can be produced in case of a dispute. Terminating employees based on discrimination or personal interests is considered unfair and illegal.
Some organizations also outsource their termination process to third-party vendors, especially in case of mass layoffs. Regardless of their implementation strategy of choice, terminating employees in a systematic process, in compliance with the local rules and regulations, can save the company a lot of hassle and limit reputational damage.