Labour (Remote Work, Work from Home and Return to Work)

- Aditya Gaggar


The pointers in this Primer enhance the details of some of the issues we covered in our earlier posts in this section.


Remote Work


Relevance/Context: If there is one thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught everyone, it is that you have to move your business online for it to survive. Goods and services that we never thought possible are now being offered online. Of course, there will always be businesses that can't move all their processes online as easily as the IT industry but that doesn't mean that they have to be left behind in the information age. From marketing and customer outreach to procurement and sales, the internet is playing a greater and greater role today in those areas. It is not just reducing costs but also improving market access. The pandemic has revolutionised the labour market as well. Employers now have access to the best talent not just in India but across the world, that too at significantly affordable costs. Given below are a few things that you need to know before you jump on to this remote work bandwagon.


Key Issues:


Q1. How do I remotely hire a resource?

Verification of credentials takes great importance when hiring remote employees. It is advisable to conduct interviews via video conference so as to verify the authenticity of the employee. The employer may also ask for notarised copies of certificates, references, police verification or a follow up with the HR department of the previous organisation to determine the character of the new hire. Once convinced of the authenticity of credentials, the employer can sign a remote work agreement with the employee along with a remote work policy.

Q2. How do I remotely terminate a resource?

For terminating remote employees, video conferencing or phone calls are the best options. This allows two-way communication, a certain level of personalisation and a display of empathy which is not possible in written communications such as an email. The video call or voice call can then be followed up with a formal email or written communication. There might also be situations where termination without just cause may not be viable. Employers may therefore want to consult a lawyer in order to assess and manage potential legal liability.

Links to resources:

  • Application to create a Remote Work Policy -

https://a2j.documate.org/interview?i=docassemble.playground310%3AWork+from+Home-Remote+Work+Policy+Generator.yml#page1

Keywords: Remote work, hiring, termination


Permanent Work from Home


Relevance/Context:

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent large scale shift to work from home or remote work, a lot of companies, particularly in the IT services sector, have been considering moving at least a part of their workforce to a work from home setup on a long term basis. For the companies this has obvious benefits such as a significant reduction in overheads, in particular infrastructure costs, more flexibility for their employees, greater productivity etc. But this gives rise to an important regulatory question, are they allowed to do so?

Key Issues:


Q1. My business premises lie in a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) or Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) area, can I shift my workforce permanently to Work from Home?

Yes.


Q2. Are there any restrictions on permanent work from home?

STPI Authorities in their response to NASSCOM queries have clarified that there are no restrictions on work from home (WFH) on a long term basis. Based on this, it would be safe to assume that other enterprises are also free to shift to permanent work from home, subject of course to any industry or unit specific statutory or contractual obligations.


Q3. Am I allowed to take-out duty-free assets and equipment from my premises on a permanent basis for the purpose of work from home?

Authorized employees of STP/ Electronic Hardware Technology Park (EHTP) units are permitted to take equipment (duty / tax free laptop/desktop and & video projection systems) out of premises of the unit for work under the Handbook of Procedures of the Foreign Trade Policy. However, as these assets continue to belong to the operating unit/legal entity, an authorized person of the unit/legal entity has the obligation of dealing with such assets and a responsibility to safeguard the government revenue. (Please refer to ‘related documents’ below)

Q4. Am I allowed to renegotiate my lease so as to reduce my leased area?

Yes, STPI directors are authorized to issue permissions to the units for reduction in operational area.

Related Documents:

Links to resources:


  • Application to create a Work from Home Policy:

https://a2j.documate.org/interview?i=docassemble.playground310%3AWork+from+Home-Remote+Work+Policy+Generator.yml#page1

Keywords: Permanent Work from Home, Long term Work from Home, SEZ, STPI, Equipment


Workplace Safety


Relevance/Context:

Since the past couple of months, the process of phased removal of COVID restrictions has been started in India. As businesses reopen and the employees return to work, ensuring safety of the workmen will be a key issue that businesses would be faced with. This section hopes to provide a reference resource to various Workplace Health and Safety guidelines issued periodically by the Government of India.


Key Issues:


Q1. As I reopen my business and my employees return to work, what safety guidelines do I need to keep in mind?

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has issued several successive guidelines from time to time. Be sure to check out the related documents on this listed below. Business owners must take care to ensure that they comply with the latest guidelines to not only ensure the health of their workers but also to ensure that their work is not disrupted due to infected employees.


Q2. As a business owner, can I be booked for criminal negligence if my employees catch Covid-19?

Unfortunately, yes. Employers are under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that their employees have access to a safe and secure work environment. There have been cases of business owners including large multinational corporations such as Hindustan Unilever Limited being booked for criminal negligence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005 for their failure to comply with the Health Ministry’s Health and Safety Guidelines. However, if you follow the government guidelines and take reasonable precautions, there is no need for you to worry.


Related documents:

Keywords: Reopen Business, Return to work, Health and Safety Guidelines, Negligence


Aditya Gaggar is an Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court of India and an independent commercial disputes law practitioner at the Delhi High Court and other commercial tribunals in Delhi