The commerce ministry has notified rules to allow employees of special economic zones (SEZs) to work from home (WFH) for up to a year, subject to certain conditions, a move which will benefit those working in the IT and ITeS sector, among others.
According to the notification, the WFH facility will be granted to a maximum of 50% of total employees, including contractual ones, of an SEZ unit. However, the development commissioner of an SEZ has been empowered to allow such a relief for a higher number of employees (more than 50%) “for any bona fide reason”.
The commissioner can also extend the one-year period for work from home on the request of SEZ units.
The move comes amid requests by the industry to firm up uniform rules on WFH for all states. Subsequently, the commerce ministry held wide consultations with the industry to finalise the rules.
The WFH facility, the ministry said, can only be provided to the employees of SEZ units belonging to the IT/ITeS sector; employees who are temporarily incapacitated; employees who have to travel a lot; and employees who are working offsite. The SEZ units, whose employees are already working from home, will get 90 days to seek formal approval for it.
“SEZ units will provide equipment and secured connectivity for the purpose of WFH to perform authorised operations of the units and the permission to take out the equipment is co-terminus with the permission granted to an employee,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
As many as 426 SEZs have been granted formal approval under the SEZ Act, 2005, and 33 in-principle clearance. But only 268 of them remained operational as of September 30, 2021. As of March 2021, SEZs across the country employed as many as 2.36 million people.