HYDERABAD: The 996 formula or the ‘9 am to 9 pm work shift for six days a week’ being advocated by Jack Ma, claiming that it has boosted his company’s performance, is a relatively new concept and one that has drawn flak from across the world. What Jack Ma — the founder of world’s largest e-commerce website Ali Baba — suggested was that people in China work for 72 hours in a week or 12 hours a day for six days. This means that a majority of the time would go in attending requirements of a job, leaving hardly any personal time. But the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) do not endorse such a practice.
While the world has been criticising Jack Ma’s statement and the method the system adopted by his company, a similar practice is prevalent right here in Telangana. In fact, the practice of a number of companies forcing their employees to work for more than 48 hours per week is rampant in the State.
“The statement made by Jack Ma is against any conventions. It is illegal. Standard working hours as per statue is 48 hours (per week). Any extra hours of work has to be compensated with overtime wages,” said R Chandra Shekaram, Joint Commissioner for Labour (JCL), Ranga Reddy district.
There has been umpteen instances of the employees of even renowned software companies protesting against the practice of making them work hours. “Employees in the software industry work for a minimum of 10 to 12 hours. The 996 culture is very much prevalent in the city and there is no denying of the fact,” observed Praveeen Chandrahas of Forum for IT professionals (ForIT), an organisation that is working to protect the rights of software employees.
“It takes at least three hours for anyone to travel to reach to the west zone of the city where the employees work. This adds the total work hours to 14 hours. When will there be a personal time in all this,” he said.
The Labour Department officials observed that most of the employees who raise a concern over excess work hours are from the securities sector.
“The security guards have an eight-hour shift, like in any other profession. But they are made to work beyond that. Though we ask them to lodge a complaint so that action can be taken, they rarely do that,” informed E Gangadhar, JCL, Hyderabad. As per the Industrial Disputes Act and Shops and Establishments Act, the number of working hours are capped at 48 hours. Any employee who works beyond the prescribed work hours should be compensated, officials said.
Interestingly, Labour Department inspections to pull up those who are violating the norms are not being conducted as extensively as they were in the past. The officials said as per the ease of doing business (EODB), the practice to conduct inspection has been done away with and now the inspections are conducted based only on complaints and auto-generated suggestions. The companies are now taking advantage of this situation, the Labour Department officials pointed out.