Introduction: The Employee State Insurance Act or ESIC Act 1948 plays a vital role in safeguarding employees’ rights across India, providing a robust social security net. This detailed analysis of the Act will unpack its applicability, elaborate on the payment of contributions, and highlight the consequences of non-compliance.
This comprehensive Act extends to the entire Indian subcontinent and applies initially to all factories except for seasonal ones. A factory, as defined by the Act, includes premises where at least ten individuals are employed, and manufacturing activities are regularly conducted, excluding mines or railway running sheds. A ‘seasonal factory’ is identified based on its engagement in specific manufacturing processes such as cotton ginning, coffee production, rubber, sugar, tea, and more.
“factory” means any premises including the precincts thereof whereon ten or more persons are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months, and in any part of which a manufacturing process is being carried on or is ordinarily so carried on, but does not include a mine subject to the operation of the Mines Act, 1952 (35 of 1952), or a railway running shed ;
“seasonal factory”, means a factory which is exclusively engaged in one or more of the following manufacturing processes, namely, cotton ginning, cotton or jute pressing, decortication of ground-nuts, the manufacture of coffee, indigo, lac, rubber, sugar (including gur) or tea or any manufacturing process which is incidental to or connected with any of the aforesaid processes and includes a factory which is engaged for a period not exceeding seven months in a year —
(a) in any process of blending, packing or repacking of tea or coffee ; or
(b) in such other manufacturing process as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify ;]
Section 40, in conjunction with Section 39 of the Act, outlines the responsibility of the principal employer to pay both the employer and employee contributions for any factory or establishment covered under the Act. The rates are specified in Rule 51 of the ESI (Central) Rules, 1950.
Employer contributions consist of a sum rounded off to the nearest Rupee, equivalent to four and three-fourths percent of an employee’s wages. In contrast, the employee’s contribution is a sum rounded off to the nearest Rupee, equivalent to one and three-fourths percent of their wages.
The wage period, determined concerning each employee, serves as the unit regarding which all contributions are payable under this Act. Contributions for each wage period typically fall due on the last day of the period. Any unpaid contributions after the due date accrue interest at twelve percent per annum or a higher rate specified in the regulations.
The Act positions the principal employer as the key player responsible for both the employer’s and the employee’s contributions, whether the employee is directly hired or through an immediate employer. Despite any other enactment, the principal employer can recover the employee’s contribution through wage reduction, but only relating to the contribution period and not exceeding the contribution sum.
It is noteworthy that neither the principal employer nor the immediate employer is allowed to deduct the employer’s contribution from an employee’s wages or recover it from them. Any amount deducted for the contribution is deemed entrusted to the principal employer for paying the contribution.
Lastly, the Act mandates that the principal employer bear the expenses of remitting contributions to the Corporation.
Non-compliance with the Act can lead to severe consequences, as stated in Sec. 85. An employer failing to pay any contribution they are liable to pay under the Act may be punished with imprisonment extending up to three years but not less than one year in case of failing to pay the employee’s contribution deducted from their wages. In addition, such an employer is liable to a fine of ten thousand rupees.
Conclusion: The ESIC Act 1948 is an essential piece of legislation that protects workers across India by providing a safety net of social security. As such, understanding its applicability, the payment of contributions, and the potential penalties for non-compliance is crucial for both employers and employees. By abiding by the Act’s rules, employers uphold their legal responsibilities, contribute to their employees’ welfare, and foster a healthy work environment.
Disclaimer: This article is based on the ESIC Act’s relevant provisions and rules available at the time of writing. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the information is not a substitute for professional advice and is subject to change without notice.