T he Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 is a piece of social welfare legislation enacted primarily with the object of providing certain benefits to employees in case of sickness, maternity and employment injury and also to make provisions for certain other matters incidental thereto. The Act in fact tries to attain the goal of socio-economic justice enshrined in the Directive Principles of State Policy under Part IV of the Constitution, in particular articles. 41, 42 and 43 which enjoin the State to make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of any undeserved want to make provision for securing just and human conditions of work, and maternity relief and to secure by suitable legislation or economic organisation or in any other way, to all workers, work, a living wage, decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leizure and social and cultural activities. The Act strives to materialise these avowed objects though only to a limited extent. Broadly, the benefits provided by the Act to insured persons or their dependants are :
(i) periodical payment in case of sickness of the insured person, (sickness benefit); (ii) periodical payment to an insured woman in case of confinement or miscarriage or sickness arising out of pregnancy, confinement, premature birth of child or miscarriage (maternity benefit); (iii) periodical payment to an insured person suffering from disablement as a result of an employment injury (disablement benefit); (iv) periodical payment to dependants of an insured person who dies as a result an employment injury (dependant's benefit); (v) medical treatment for and attendance on insured person (medical benefit), and (vi) payment for expenditure on the funeral of the insured person (funeral expenses). Here employment injury includes occupational diseases, and disablement may either be temporary or permanent, whether total or partial.
This Act covers a wider spectrum than the Factories Act in the sense that while the Factories Act concerns with the health, safety, welfare, leave, etc. of the workers employed in the factory premises only, the benefits of this Act extend to employees whether working inside the factory or establishment or elsewhere or they are directly employed or employed by the principal employer or through an intermediate agency, if the employment is incidental or in connection with the work in the factory or establishment, meaning thereby, under the Act it is not the place of work but the nexus between the work and the factory or establishment to which the Act is extended is material.
Extensive regulations have been framed under the Act to identify the employees who would be entitled to the benefits. The employees are to be registered and their contribution cards and identity card are to be prepared. An employee therefore has to be identified in the records of the Employees' State Insurance Corporation so that he is entitled to claim various benefits.
An elaborate machinery is provided for the effective administration of the Act, the apex body being the ESI Corporation, subordinate to which are the Standing Committee and Medical Benefit Council. The Corporation is a public corporation controlled and subsidised by the government for the benefit of the employees, its object being rendering service to a penurious section of the public. The funds required for functioning of the scheme are raised from contributions, both of employer's and employees', grants, donations and gifts from governments, local bodies, individuals or bodies whether corporate or not. (ESI Fund). For adjudication of disputes and claims Employees Insurance Courts are being created. Provision for recovery of contribution, penalty and damages for default, prosecution and punishment, etc. have also been provided.
The ever-expanding industrial horizon and reciprocal uprising of labour conciousness necessitate the employer and employee to be conversant with the current labour legislations that govern their relationship, rights and obligations. This handbook, comprising the ESI Act, 1948 with short comments, ESI (Central) Rules, 1950 as amended by ESI (Central) (2nd Amendment) Rules, 2003 vide GSR 172(E), dt. 4-3-2004, w.e.f. 1-4-2004 , and ESI (General) Regulations, 1950, as amended by ESI (General) (Amendment) Regulations, 2003, dt. 27-3-2003, w.e.f. 19-4-2003, along with the necessary forms, is intended to cater the same.
A creative feedback from the learned readers, bringing to our notice any mistake, error or omission or discrepancy that might have crept in this book in spite of our sincere efforts to avoid those, is most welcome, for it will help us improve the overall quality, style and presentation of the book in the forthcoming editions.