COVID-19 is a severe acute respiratory disorder caused due to the infection from the novel coronavirus that originated from China and has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. India was under a nationwide lockdown that resulted in the slowdown of our economy and a change in the pattern of the working of the people.
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As per the Indian constitution, the Central and the State Governments are entitled to frame certain legislation to regulate and protect the interest of the employees taking into account the type of industry, nature of work, number of workers/employees, location, remuneration of the employees and many other such factors relating to the employer-employee relationship.
Work From Home
The idea of work from home isn’t new in Indian businesses, though the Indian employment statutes are silent on the work from home concept. The concept of work from home has not been mentioned anywhere in Employment laws and such terms and conditions are generally mentioned in the Employment Agreements. Therefore, it is completely on the discretion of Employers to allow the same, but as the government has come up with circulars and directives for work from home, employers are also cooperating considering public health at large. However, the statutory provisions relating to operating hours, leave policy, overtime fee, etc. shall continue to apply in the same manner. In lieu of the lockdown in India, all the industrial establishments which are not engaged in providing essential services have to be closed.
Availing of Leave
The discretion should be entirely upon the employee to use their paid leave and annual leave and cannot be compelled to make use of the unpaid leaves during the scenario of Covid-19. Certain states have issued notifications for providing sick leaves to employees who have been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Layoff under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is referred to as an exhaustive condition in which a business organization becomes incapable of providing employment to an employee or workman due to scarcity of raw materials or substances or breakdown of the machinery or any natural calamity or for some reasons which are incidental thereto. In case an employer implements lay-off in his establishment, then he is obligated to pay regular salary to the employee and if the lay-off continues for more than 45 days then the employer can initiate the process of retrenchment.
Reduction in Payment of Salary/Wages
There isn’t any legislation dealing with the reduction of payment. The employer and employee mutually decide the same. Considering the industry’s current scenario due to pandemic, the employer and employee of certain aviation and tourism industries have agreed on a standardized pay cut across the board. The reduction in the salary shall be made universally in a particular industry without any discrimination being practiced on any basis whatsoever.
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If there is termination required for any employee, then the process must include the completion of all the mandatory procedures like notice period, intimation to the appropriate authorities, payment of retrenchment compensation, price of gratuity, leave encashment, etc. Further, all the necessary governmental guidelines on the termination of an employee during the present scenario have to be taken into account. This method should always be the last resort to overcome any obstacle the employer faces.
Employers are obliged to give compensation to employees who’re injured (which includes partial or everlasting disablement) or die due to accidents occurred during employment. Accordingly, if the employee contracts with the COVID-19 infection during employment, the business enterprise will be legally obligated to pay compensation to the affected personnel. The obligation to pay compensation would also depend on other elements like the nature of employment, the character of the worker’s work, and the circumstances wherein the injury/death/contamination was caused.
In the present scenario where the Government has invoked the Disaster Management Act, 2005 in the entire nation, and accordingly, a nationwide lockdown brings the economy of the country to a standstill, the employers cannot violate the above-mentioned rights of the employee. The employers are advised to pay the salaries to their employees and workers by any electronic or digitally equipped method during the lockdown in the interest of the employees in view of the need for money so that they can fulfill their basic and daily requirements. Sooner or later the Government should also come with a plan to provide subsidy to the employers for the wages paid to the employee.