India: "Workman" Under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947

Last Updated: 14 October 2015
Article by Kanchan Modak (Intern)


The concept of workman is central to the concept of an industrial dispute as an industrial dispute can be raised either by a "workman" or an "employer." Since the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 ("ID Act") is a piece of beneficial legislation, the courts have enlarged the scope and applicability of this Act by giving wide interpretation to the term "workman." Section 2(s) defines workman as any person (including an apprentice) employed in any industry to do any manual, unskilled, skilled, technical, operational, clerical or supervisory work, for hire or reward, terms of employment be express or implied and includes any such person who has been dismissed, discharged or retrenched in connection with, or as a consequence of dispute. It excludes persons employed in army/Navy/Air Force/Police and those employed in mainly managerial or administrative, supervisory capacity and drawing wages of more than INR 6500.

The Courts have interpreted this definition and have identified various determining factors to know whether a person is "workman" or not. The factors which should be considered are (a) whether there is a Master-Servant relationship;1 (b) when a person is performing various functions which overlap in their characteristics, the nature of main function for which the claimant is employed should be considered;2 (c) work is either manual, skilled, unskilled, technical operational, clerical or supervisory in nature, the mere fact that it does not fall within the exception would not render a person to be workman; and (d) that the exceptions are not applicable.3 Further, designation, source of employment, method of recruitment, terms and conditions of employment/contract of service, the quantum of wages/pay and the mode of payment should not be considered while determining whether a person can be termed as "workman."4

Over a period of time, courts have interpreted specific points of contention in the definition under the ID Act which has enlarged the scope of the legislation. This note discusses some of the important components of section 2(s) and their interpretation by the courts below.

1. Supervisory and Managerial work

1.1 A person working in purely managerial and/or supervisory capacity does not fall within the definition of workman under ID Act. However, when a person performs multifarious functions, the nature of the main function performed by the person has to be considered to determine if the person is a "workman." The designation of a person is not a conclusive factor in determining the nature of work. Even if a person is designated as supervisor, the employer has to prove that his work and his duties were in nature of a supervisor.5

1.2 To squarely fall within the exception, the person must be (a) employed in a supervisory capacity; (b) draw more than INR 6500 as wages; and (c) primarily perform the functions of managerial nature. The emphasis really is to exclude those persons who are performing mainly managerial work and are employed in supervisory capacity i.e. evaluating the work of their subordinates. A managerial work includes powers and duties related to hiring and firing of new employees, grant of leave to employees and actual participation in the policy of the business. The managerial functions may not be performed as a consequence of a written contract but may be implied from the powers vested in a person or the nature of his duties. A mere leader of a team who makes checks and forwards it to seniors for consideration cannot be said to be covered within the exception.6 Further, a supervisor earning less than 6,500/- may also raise an industrial dispute for an increment in wages which may eventually exclude him from the definition of workman.7

2. Skilled and Unskilled manual and operational work

2.1 Courts have not formulated an explanation as to who are considered as people employed in "manual and operational work." Manual or operational work may be classified as one that requires no special set of skills. It is mostly associated with physical labour. By way of exception, the courts have excluded such works which need imaginative or creative quotient. A work that requires training would imply that the work is of special nature and requires a distinct application of mind. It is not considered a manual/clerical/operational work or technical work. However, in a few cases the courts have deviated from strict interpretation and excluded ancillary creative works while considering the definition of "workman." A person suggesting ways to increase sale is using an imaginative minds and therefore, is out of the scope of this definition. However, a person carrying out such ideas by distributing pamphlets or engaging in door-to-door publicity will be covered as a "workman" under the ID Act.

2.2 A salesperson may use various techniques to convince the consumers but that is not considered as use of creative or imaginative faculty and such sales person, even if he goes through a training to acquire knowledge about the product, will not be excluded from the definition of a workman.8

3. Part Time and Full Time workman

The number of working hours is not considered while determining whether a person qualifies as "workman" or not. However, there must exist a master-servant relationship between the employee and his employer. An independent contractor cannot be termed as a workman. The employer must be in a position to control the manner of employee‟s work.

The ID Act does not differentiate between part-time, full time, casual, daily wage,9 regular or permanent workman. All such individuals are subject to ID Act if they fulfill the ingredients as provided in section 2(s).10


To give effect to the objects of this Act, the courts have followed a purposive approach while interpreting the term workman‟ and industrial dispute‟. The emphasis is laid on the nature of duties and powers conferred on an employee rather than the designation.

This bulletin is prepared by Kanchan Modak (under the supervision of Ankush Goyal, Senior Associate), a 4th year law student at NLIU Bhopal, who interned at PSA.


1. Chintaman Rao v. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR (1958) SC 358

2. John Joseph Khokar v. Bhadange B. S. & ors 1998 (1) LLJ 447 (Bom)

3.Kirloskar Brothers Ltd. v. Respondent: The Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Delhi and Anr. [1977(34)FLR206]

4. Devinder Singh v Municipal Council, (2011) 6 SCC 584

5. Delta Jute & Industries Ltd. Staff Association and Ors. v. State of West Bengal and Ors [2015(145)FLR105]

6. Burmah Shell Oil Storage and Distributing Company of India Ltd. and Anr. v. Burmah Shell Management Staff Association and Ors. A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 922

7. The Workmen v. Greaves Cotton & Co. Ltd. & Ors 1972 SCR 1373

8. Chandrasekhara Sharma v. C. Krishnaiah Chetty Jewellers Private Limited 2012(4)KarLJ279

9. Gobind v. Presiding Officer, Labour Court and Another (2012)ILR 2Punjab and Haryana637

10. Dinesh Sharma and Ors. v. State of Bihar and Ors. 1983(31)BLJR207

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions