COVID-19 and Employment actions

The Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, on 20 March 2020 has issued an ‘advisory’ to employers of public and private organizations to extend support by not terminating ‘employees’ particularly casual and contract workers, from job or reduce their wages. The advisory continued that if a ‘worker’ were to go on leave, then the same shall be deemed to be on duty and no consequential deduction in ‘wages’. We have seen similar notifications issued by various State Governments. However, we are seeing reports of layoffs and terminations.

The above is an advisory and the notification is a bit cryptic with its use of words. Since the notification is in the backdrop of Covid19, it is not clear whether there is a retrospective effect of the notification though it is dated on 20 March 2020.

Government of Karnataka on 13 April 2020, issued an Order that no employer of public or private organizations shall terminate or reduce the salary, special for casual and contract workers. Further if any worker is on leave, then the same shall be deemed to be on duty and there shall be no reduction in wages. It may be noted that this is a mandatory order and not an advisory.

This caused quite a bit of confusion the past few days. But the Times of India news reporting of 16 April 2020, states that the Order has been withdrawn by the GOK. However, no information is available on the Govt’s website.

We are also seeing news reports that Labour Commissioner has issued notices to employers for termination of employees during lockdown. Check one of the reports here.  Amdocs Pune Fires 150 Employees During Lockdown; Labor Commissioner Issues Notice. 

It may be noted that employees will have to be paid during lock-down. While employees may choose to utilise their accrued leaves, an employer cannot mandate employees to proceed on unpaid leave. If an employee had to travel because of work and has either fallen sick or quarantined, then employer cannot force the employee to utilize the sick or annual leave. Various State Govt.’s have issued notifications on treatment of or extension of leave. Government of Karnataka has issued a notification mandating 28 days of paid leave for employees infected with Covid19.

Should the notifications permit an employer to continue business, then an employee cannot refuse to work, unless the employer is not following the standards of hygiene, health and safety measures to contain the epidemic.

The Department of Telecommunications has issued a circular relaxing the terms and conditions for OSP (Other Service Provider) license holders for employees from working from home.

Should you have any questions or queries in relation to the legal developments in these VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) times, please drop us an email at relationships@novojuris.com

 

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