SANDQVIST Bags and Items AB, Complaint 613

Payment of a living wage Legally binding employment relationship

The complainant claimed that he/she joined the factory in January 2018. He/she has been working in the production department as a helper and his/her net earning is INR 7000.

In early January, the complainant received a call from home that his/her father was unwell. He/she asked for leave and went to his/her hometown. He/she requested leave from 9 January 2019. Before leaving, he/she asked for the yearly bonus which the factory would normally distribute in the month of January. Management informed him/her that they would disburse the amount later and told him/her to go home and look after his/her father. The complainant is still on leave as his/her father's condition is bad. The complainant is also missing five days of salary, along with the bonus which is likely to be INR 4500. When the complainant asked management about his/her money, he/she was told that he/she would only receive the bonus if he/she returned to work. The complainant had a discussion with the HR manager and the managing director but it was fruitless. Therefore, he/she decided to file this complaint.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2019-03-20 Investigation

FWF shared the complaint with the brand and the brand shared the details with the factory seeking their response.

Complaints handler received a call on March 21st 2019 from the complainant saying that he has contacted the HR Manager for his dues [ Bonus plus 5 days salary] and he was informed that he would not be provided with the same since he has made a complaint with FWF and he can approach whomsoever he wants to.

2019-04-11 Investigation

There has been no response from the brand/factory as yet. The complainant is making continuous calls to check if there is any progress.

2019-04-29 Investigation

Management has replied that the complainant had collected the salary for the month of December which was disbursed in the 1st week of January 2019 which was credited to his/her account. He/she did not turn up for the 5 days as per his/her statement. It was mentioned that a worker has to give a formal written leave request before taking leave but in this case the complainant did not inform the management and directly went to his/her home town. It was added that the complainant made a call to the factory only in the first week of March asking for his/her bonus. As per their company policy, the complainant should inform them with proper notice and the leave request has to be signed and approved by the production manager, HR Manager and MD.

Also management claimed that he did not tell anything about his father health when he had called them and took this is clear case of absconding and regret that they cannot release his bonus. They said that the below clause is mentioned in the appointment letter and the complainant has signed it.
“Bonus will not be applicable if the notice period is not served and the receiving documents will not be provided or won’t cover any additional benefits in your employment service. Pending salary will not be given.The notice period is 30 days from either side. Even if Butler has to terminate we give them 30 days notice period"

2019-05-10 Investigation

According to FWF, the complaint at this point is word against word as it is difficult to ascertain the truth of the statement on whether the complainant has taken permission from the management before leave or not.
FWF has sought an expert's advice to check the complainant's right to bonus and to check if management's stand on the bonus pay is legal.

2019-05-14 Investigation

FWF's complaint handler has checked with the complainant to clarify if he/she has taken permission before leaving the factory. It was informed that since he/she received an urgent call he/she had to leave but he/she had called the HR Manager on this and received permission.

HR has assured that the factory would settle the amount once he/she is back. As the illness of the complainant's father prolonged, he/she could not return as early as expected. When he/she returned, the factory management did not allow him/her to re-join and also did not give his/her bonus. Hence he/she is working at a nearby company now.

His/her claim is that now the factory management says that as he/she did not join factory for work, they would not settle the bonus. He/she stated that as per company norms those who worked about a year are eligible to receive the bonus.

Also the factory management is threatening that as he/she complained against the factory, they will not settle his/her bonus.
As per the complainant, the management claimed that If they settle his/her bonus, then everyone will start using the helpline.

2019-05-16 Conclusion of the investigation

Our legal expert has asserted that the complainant is entitled to bonus payment.

Though management has cited a clause from the appointment letter which dis-entitles the worker from getting bonus, it is not legal though the worker has signed the appointment letter.

However, the management cannot use is stronger bargaining power to take away from the worker what has been provided to him/ her under the law.

Section 9 of Payment of Bonus Act says that an employee shall be disqualified from receiving bonus under this Act, if he/she is dismissed from service for -- (a) fraud; or (b) riotous or violent behaviour while on the premises of the establishment; or (c) theft, misappropriation or sabotage of any property of the establishment.

In our given case, Section 9 clearly does not apply and the management cannot add its own disqualifications and hence the complainant is entitled to the bonus.

2019-05-16 Remediation

Since the factory is obliged to pay the bonus to the complainant , FWF recommends the factory to pay the bonus to the worker at the earliest.