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A Closer Look At Sick Leave: Legal Obligations And Employee Rights In India

By - King Stubb & Kasiva on December 26, 2023

Sick leave is an essential component of the employer-employee dynamic, providing workers with the essential duration to recuperate from health-related setbacks without jeopardizing their financial security. Alongside the current laws, the introduction of four novel Labour Codes in India also contains provisions pertaining to sick leave. The purpose of this article is to examine in detail the legal liabilities and rights of employees under the Indian Labor Law regime.

The Current Laws

In India, sick leave policies are primarily governed by the State’s Shops and Establishment Act, with additional regulations specific to certain roles or industries. For instance, under Section 22 of the Delhi Shops and Establishment Act, a worker is entitled to 12 days of sick leave upon continuous service of 1 year. Furthermore, sick leaves can be combined with earned leaves, but they are not carried forward or encashed and automatically lapse at the end of the calendar year.

Furthermore, under Section 15 of the Apprentices Act, 1961 and Sections 11 and Schedule V of the Apprenticeship Rules, 1992, interns or apprentices are entitled to paid medical leave as per the rules of the establishment.

There are certain industry-specific acts such as the Plantation Labour Act, 1951. Under Chapter VI of this act, it outlines the sick leave policies for plantation industry workers. Section 7 of the Working Journalist and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 stipulates that employees can take sick leave equivalent to one-eighteenth of the service period at half the wages. Similarly, under Section 4 of the Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976, employees can take sick leave equivalent to one-eighteenth of the service period at half the wages.

Section 4 read with Sections 9 and 10 of the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 prohibits the employment of women in any establishment during the six weeks following delivery or miscarriage. Pregnant women can request relief from arduous work during this period. The protective period includes the month preceding the expected delivery date and any subsequent six weeks if leave is not availed. In case of miscarriage, a woman is entitled to six weeks of leave with wages at the maternity benefit rate. For illness related to pregnancy, delivery, premature birth, or miscarriage, women can avail of one month of leave with wages in addition to the allowed absence period. These provisions prioritize the health and well-being of women during and after pregnancy.

The New Codes

The mandates pertaining to sick leave as outlined in the four recently enacted Labour Codes are thorough and influential. These include the following:

The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 places significant importance on the promotion of a secure and healthy workplace. Per Sections 8 and 14, it is the responsibility of employers to establish protocols that facilitate the timely identification of occupational illnesses, therefore safeguarding the general welfare of their employees.  

Additionally, Section 66 of the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 defines continuous service and states that a worker’s service is deemed as continuous even if it has been interrupted on account of sickness.  

Lastly, a complete structure is constructed within the scope of the Social Security Code, 2020 under the provisions pertaining to the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, to ensure the provision of social security benefits, including sickness payments. Sections 40-43 put light on the eligibility requirements and conditions for claiming sickness benefits.

Best Practices

Best practices are advocated for the benefit of both employers and employees to foster a healthy work environment. It is imperative for employers to prioritise the establishment of unambiguous and effectively communicated regulations for sick leave, so guarantee that employees are cognizant of their rights. Fostering a supportive work environment is accomplished by granting employees who are managing chronic health issues flexible work arrangements. Effective communication and trust are critical when it comes to matters concerning sick leave. Consistent training initiatives can assist in enlightening staff members about their entitlements and obligations concerning sick leave.

To ensure adherence to best practices, employees are expected to proactively notify employers in advance of any sick leave requirements. Legitimate medical certifications must be presented as evidence of disease to uphold the principles of transparency throughout the procedure. By exercising responsible utilisation of sick leave and preventing unnecessary absences, an organisation can foster a work environment that is both more efficient and collaborative. It is imperative to maintain efficient and transparent communication with employers regarding health issues and return-to-work strategies to facilitate a seamless reintegration process. When implemented as a whole, these optimal strategies cultivate an organisational climate that emphasizes mutual comprehension, cooperation, and the holistic welfare of employers and staff.


Employers should consider establishing work environments that prioritize employee health by comprehending and complying with legal regulations; employees, equipped with knowledge of their particular rights, may negotiate sick leave scenarios with assurance. The aforementioned optimal approaches additionally foster a favourable organizational climate by placing greater emphasis on accountability, trust, and effective communication. As a collective, these components establish a synergistic equilibrium that not only satisfies legal obligations but also cultivates an environment characterized by reciprocal regard, thus making a positive contribution to the well-being and efficiency of the workplace in India.


How has sick leave been impacted by the four new Labour Codes in India?

Under the existing laws and labour codes, significant changes have been introduced regarding sick leaves. The modifications focus on three key aspects: i) the duration of leave available to employees during their tenure, (ii) the carryover of unused leave to the subsequent year, and (iii) the utilization of accrued but unused leave while still employed. Notably, the minimum days of employment required to qualify for leave have been reduced from 240 to 180 under the new labour laws. This implies that, as per current regulations, a new employee must complete 240 days of work to become eligible for a leave of absence. However, under the updated labour laws, eligibility for leave is established after only 180 days of employment.

What are the key rights of employees regarding sick leave in India?

Employees in India have sick leave rights governed by the State's Shops and Establishment Act, with industry-specific regulations. For example, in Delhi, workers get 12 sick leave days after a year. Regarding sick leave, employees in India are entitled to specific privileges, such as the freedom to request and receive complete compensation for approved periods of leave without apprehension of discrimination, the confidentiality of medical information, and the ability to lodge complaints in the event of unjust treatment.

What are the recommended best practices for fostering a positive work environment concerning sick leave?

It is recommended that employers implement explicit sick leave policies, and foster an environment of trust and open communication. It is highly recommended that employees proactively notify their employers, furnish legitimate medical certificates, exercise responsible sick leave utilisation, and engage in good communication regarding their health problems and intended return to work.

King Stubb & Kasiva,
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