With the Government declaring a lockdown in many cities, it is natural for employees unable to report for duty to worry about their salaries and jobs. The Ministry of Labour and Employment has therefore, issued an advisory to all public and private employers requested them to lend support to their employees during these hard times. The Ministry has issued an office memorandum (OM) saying that all employees, whether contractual or permanent, who are required to stay at home as part of the lockdown, should be treated as ‘on duty’ and paid for their period of absence. This arrangement will apply till April 30, 2020. As per the OM, the lockdown situation should not be used as a pretext to lay off staff or impose leave without pay on the employees.
The advisory definitely comes as a relief to many contractual and outsourced staff as well, who were uncertain about their wages and were fearing huge deductions.
Although some state governments have ordered some private offices to remain shut, not all organisations have allowed their staff to stay home, especially in cases where work-from-home is not possible nor is it an option, depending on the nature of the job.
The Ministry’s advisory also requests public and private employers and organisations to not terminate their employees who are on contract or deduct the wages of the casual workers. The advisory requests that any employee taking leave should be considered as being on duty and not have to face a deduction in wages.
While discussing the economic impact of the lockdown with representatives of ASSOCHAM, FICCI, CII and several local chambers from 18 cities across India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested everyone to encourage working from home with the use of technology. Modi emphasised that wherever feasible, employees should be allowed to work from home, instead of downsizing or reducing the workforce.