Covid-19: Comprehensive workplace policy needed to sail through infection storm

Published: July 20, 2020 6:30 AM

Labour law mandated leaves have been retained; leaves like paternity, marriage, accumulation of leaves have all been revisited and it is paving way to newer type of leaves like ‘me leaves’.

Organisations have reset earned leaves from 25 during pre-Covid-19 days to 15 days now, to keep the liquidity quotient intact.Organisations have reset earned leaves from 25 during pre-Covid-19 days to 15 days now, to keep the liquidity quotient intact. (Representative image)

By Prashant Singh

Covid-19 has disrupted the workplace like never before. It has changed both internal policies as well as the law of the land. While it has bought to the forefront employee engagement and the humane side of the organisation, it has also made organisations tighten purse strings. Many companies have developed a separate team to look into the health and well-being of employees; some have hired professionals who can help talent who are in distress, and others are relooking at allowances and leave policies. Many have even taken out shift and conveyance allowances. Labour law mandated leaves have been retained; leaves like paternity, marriage, accumulation of leaves have all been revisited and it is paving way to newer type of leaves like ‘me leaves’. Organisations have also reset earned leaves from 25 during pre-Covid-19 days to 15 days now, to keep the liquidity quotient intact.

It’s not only internal policies that have witnessed a change, even labour policies both at national and state levels. States like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have revamped their labour law polices. For instance, Madhya Pradesh has issued an ordinance on standing order. The Labour Welfare Fund’s applicable headcount has been increased from 50 to 100. They have waived off many provisions of labour law for 1,000 days for a new set-up. Rajasthan has issued a notification removing the cap of maximum working hours, and has the minimum working hours from 8 hours a day to 12 hours, giving employers the flexibility to address the shortage of manpower and employees an opportunity to earn more wages. Rajasthan has also increased the threshold limit of the applicability of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, from 100 to 300; this increase has made the establishment eliminate the procedural compliance behind the standing order and subsequent changes on the approved standing order.

While many states have effected multiple changes, what organisations need at the movement is a clear and comprehensive labour policy that allows them flexibility; for organisations and the economy to recover, it calls for the following:

Digitisation: Applications for registration and changes on registration should be made online and subsequent approvals be provided by referring the uploaded documents. This will help companies avoid multiple visits to the labour department. A classic example wherein digitisation is the need of the hour is ‘inspection’. We should move to an online model where documents are submitted to an inspector (it currently is done through hard copy). This will save paperwork, time, physical visits and tracking records.

Inspection: Online inspections will save time and effort. All mandatory labour compliance pillars like minimum wages, bonus, gratuity, factory, etc, have separate inspectors who are needed to come in person and verify. Instead, inspectors-in-charge and inspection should be simplified into one.

Simplify registers: Labour compliances mandate organisations to maintain separate registers. Amalgamation of various registers into one is required to avoid maintaining similar registers under various acts. For example, for payment of wages or minimum wages, shop & establishment, etc, multiple registers can be made into one.

Online returns: Labour departments must merge all returns into one and the same should be made available online to submit in a simple way. For example, the central government has unified returns, whereas states have separate returns. This creates complication, duplication and confusion.

Simplifying provisions: Labour law must be revisited to make corrections like applicability of various Acts, working hours, welfare measures and safety provisions to suit current requirements.

Relaxation of labour laws: Labour laws must be relaxed, keeping in mind the working group as well as organisations. This can help employers revisit business models and start afresh.

The author is business head, Compliance & Payroll Outsourcing, TeamLease Services

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