Labour Law: Meaning & Significance

Labour law is a broad field of law that regulates issues including employment, compensation, working conditions, trade unions, and labour relations. The phrase encompasses both social security and disability insurance in its broadest sense. Contrary to the rules controlling a specific legal relationship, the components of labour law are a little less uniform than those of contract, tort, or property law.

Labour law deals with the statutory requirements and collective relationships that are becoming more significant in mass-production societies, the legal relationships between organized economic interests and the state, and the various rights and obligations related to some types of social services, in addition to the individual contractual relationships emerging out of the traditional employment situation.

What are Labour Laws?

The word "labour" refers to productive work, particularly physical exertion performed for pay. The corpus of laws, administrative decisions, and case law that deals with the legal rights and limitations on working individuals and their organizations is known as labour law, also known as employment law. The two main categories of labour law are.

  • The relationship between the employee, employer, and union is referred to as the tripartite relationship in collective labour law.

  • Second, individual labour law focuses on the rights of employees at work and under the employment contract.

The rights and obligations of people who work for an organization, as well as those of the organization itself, are governed by a collection of laws known as labour laws. Between workers, organizations, and the collective of workers, such as trade unions, they serve as a mediator.

They fall into two categories −

  • The first regulates the interaction between the employer, employee, and labour unions, and

  • The second is concerned with the personal freedoms of employees. They also outline the rights and obligations of employers, unions, and employees. The following fall under the purview of labour law 

  • Industrial relations  includes both the operation of trade unions and unfair labour practices within its purview.

  • Workplace safety  includes the necessary safeguards and complaint procedures in the event of an unfortunate incident.

  • Employment norms  This includes a clause regarding leaves, minimum wage requirements, working hour restrictions, and layoff procedures.

Historical Background

Although labour law has gained recognition as a distinct branch of the law within the academic legal community, the degree to which it is recognized as a separate branch of legal practice varies greatly depending on the extent to which there is a labour code or other distinctive body of labour legislation in the country in question, the extent to which there are separate labour courts or tribunals, and the extent to which an influential group within the legal community has pushed for the recognition of labour law as a separate branch of legal practice.

There are numerous places around the world where labour laws have existed. The significance of the guilds and apprenticeship systems in use during the Middle Ages was emphasized by European scholars. While American authors point us toward the law of the Indies, which was enacted in Spain in the 17th century for its rapidly expanding civilization, Asian historians date the origins of labour laws to the Babylon code (18th century BCE) and the rules of the Manu.

They were created in the 18th century as a result of the industrial revolution. The rate at which industries were developing at the expense of labour was disastrous, and on the other side, society was moving toward social justice with the advent of the French Revolution. As a result of this conflict, labour laws were introduced in the 18th century, but in their truest sense, they were accepted in the 20th century.

Elements of Labour Law

Major elements of labour law are 

  • Modern labour law has often tended to increase legislative requirements and collective contractual agreements at the expense of the rights and obligations derived from individual employment contracts. The degree of personal freedom in a particular culture and the degree of freedom granted to both employers and employees by the way the economy actually functions determine how significant these latter issues.

  • When it comes to issues like working hours, health and safety regulations, or labour relations, statutory or collective elements may define the majority of the specific rights and obligations of the individual worker, whereas when it comes to issues like the length of his appointment, the scope and depth of his responsibilities, or his position on the pay scale, these elements may essentially serve as a framework for individual agreement.

The fundamentals of labour law can be broken down into nine categories 

Sr. no Fundamentals of Labour Law
1 Employment
2 Specific employment relationships
3 Wages and compensation
4 Working conditions
5 Health
6 Safety
7 Welfare
8 Social security
9 Trade unions and industrial relations

Purpose of Labour Legislation

Three key tasks are fulfilled by labour legislation that is adjusted to the economic and social problems of the modern workplace 

  • It offers a legal framework that supports productive individual and collective employment partnerships, and subsequently a successful economy;

  • By establishing a framework for communication between employers, employees, and their representatives. Communicating about matters pertaining to the workplace is crucial for reaching democratic workplaces that support happy working relations;

  • It offers a regular, clear reminder and assurance of foundational values, rights at work that are widely accepted by society and create the procedures. It can be used to implement and enforce these values and rights.

However, experience has shown that good labour legislation must be sensitive to both the demands of the parties concerned and the conditions on the labour market in order to carry out these responsibilities. The most effective strategy to guarantee that these circumstances and requirements are adequately taken into account is to involve individuals who are affected heavily in the creation of the legislation through social dialogue processes. It is crucial to include stakeholders in this way in order to create a solid foundation of support for labour laws and to make it easier for them to be applied both inside and outside of the formally organized economic sectors.

Constitutional Provisions for Labour Laws

It includes 

  • In accordance with Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, Chapter-III (Articles 16, 19, 23, and 24) and Chapter IV (Articles 39, 41, 42, 43, 43A, and 54) of the Indian Constitution enshrine the relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need to protect and safeguard the interest of labour as human beings.

  • According to the Indian Constitution, labour is a concurrent topic, meaning that both the Union and the state governments have the authority to enact and enforce labour laws. The majority of significant pieces of legislation have been passed by the Parliament.


Labour law is legislation that outlines obligations and rights in the workplace, notably those of the employer and the employee. As different jurisdictions have different laws, this term only applies to American labour law. Fair hiring practices are the first step in protecting employee rights. A background or credit check on an applicant is illegal without the applicant's express written consent. Employers are not permitted to treat applicants differently on the basis of their age, race, religion, or nation of origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants with disabilities unless their condition prevents them from performing job-related duties.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1. How many different types of labour legislation exist?

Ans: Four labour codes were adopted by the Indian parliament in the 2019 and 2020 sessions. 44 current labour laws will be consolidated into these four codes. These are the 2020 Industrial Relations Code, 2020 Social Security Code, 2020 Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, and 2019 Wage Code.

Q2. What do you mean by labour law?

Ans: Labour law is a broad field of law that regulates issues including employment, compensation, working conditions, trade unions, and labour relations. The phrase encompasses both social security and disability insurance in its broadest sense.

Q3. For whom were labour laws made first?

Ans: Child labourers were the focus of the first labour regulations, followed by women and eventually men.

Q4. Who founded the field of labour law?

Ans: Wedlock Rousseau's rules, approved in France in 1884, were the country's first labour law.

Q5. What year did the labour legislation start?

Ans: The first law governing labour in manufacturing was passed in 1874, and it only addressed child labour. The statute of May 5, 1889, which applies to all industrial undertakings but excludes agriculture, forestry, fishing, and stock-rearing, laid the foundation for all current restrictions.

Updated on: 16-Jan-2023

2K+ Views

Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started