Typically, Indian white-collar employees had three kinds of leaves—annual or privilege leave, casual leave and sick leave. Quarantine leave is the fourth category coming up in light of the covid-19 pandemic.
“Is it going to be a paid leave or unpaid leave? If the company pays for the quarantine period, to what extent? This is what we are advising clients on," said Raunak Singh, founding partner at Avitr Legal, a law firm.
Work from home, and the prospects of employers adopting it on a large scale, raises many legal complications. While companies can save on real estate costs, protecting confidentiality is an uphill task. Avik Biswas, partner at law firm IndusLaw said there would be new policies controlling IT and IT assets, besides personal devices. Breaches of confidentially have criminal liability implications, he warned.
Working from home has implications for an employer’s wage bill, too. Companies are consulting law firms to figure out how to deal with overtime payments. “Overtime is regulated by state-specific laws. Companies, right now, are grappling to ascertain how overtime can be accounted for and monitored while an employee works from home. The wage bill implications could be huge since over-time calculations for non-managerial positions could be immense, given the numbers involved," he said.
Meanwhile, some companies are already working on newer compensation structures—increasing the proportion of variable pay vis-a-vis fixed pay, for instance. “The quantum of variable pay was always higher in the top bracket of a company—now the increases are being considered for a number of other levels, too," Biswas said.
Firms seem to be grappling with employee termination during the lockdown considering the many advisories against it from both the central and state governments. Lawyers are, therefore, advising their clients to hold on to employees till the lockdown period is over.
“This was a situation no one envisaged. So no employment contract had any provisions around terminations when it came to situations such as this," said Suyash Srivastava, partner at L&L Partners, another law firm. “We are advising clients on a mutual settlement with the employee since there are penal provisions under the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act," he said.
In the case of a disaster such as covid-19, the two Acts can be invoked against an employer if a government notification is disregarded.
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