With the number of cases of Coronavirus affected individuals standing at a staggering 251 as on March 20, 2020, reported in 22 States and Union Territories of India, it has become imperative for everyone to take immediate action and scale up the response to detect, report, treat and reduce transmission to save lives. India has not faced a pandemic fight like this one since the Spanish Flu (1918). While the government has ordered the temporary closing of educational institutions, gyms, and most other places, several state governments have begun to prescribe additional precautionary measures for offices and other establishments.
The government of India is keeping a close vigil on the track record of the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Addressing the nation on March 19, 2020, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi urged citizens to (i) resolve to perform the duties as a citizen and follow the directions of the Centre and State government(s), and (ii) to show restraint for the next few weeks by staying home and stepping out, whether for work or otherwise, only when absolutely essential. The Prime Minister advocating the efficacy of social distancing called for a self-imposed “Janta Curfew” on Sunday, March 22, 2020, between 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM. During this period no one, except for people related to essential services, must come out of their homes. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs, in an effort to promote ‘Work From Home’, has strongly advised companies/LLPs to implement the 'Work from Home' policy as a temporary measure till March 31, 2020. A webform for companies/ LLPs to confirm their readiness to deal with the coronavirus threat has also been proposed.
State governments have been authorized to lead the observance of the aforementioned “Janta Curfew” and prescribe appropriate guidelines in relation to the containment of COVID-19. In this regard, Kerala and Karnataka State governments had previously issued an advisory to IT companies to provide work from home options, especially for those employees who have returned from foreign travel and for those who were potentially in contact with them. Following their examples, the Labour Department, the government of Haryana, vide its notification had also brought out specific guidelines for the management of factories and establishments to mandatorily follow. A few from the notification have been produced below for quick reference:
The government of Karnataka, vide notification, towards prevention of spreading of Coronavirus, has also instructed its Labour Department to take necessary action and allow for paid twenty-eight days of leave with wages for (possibly) infected employees, if any, who are covered under the Employee State Insurance (“ESI”) subject to tendering a declaration from an ESI hospital/dispensary to the employer. Those employees who are not covered under ESI shall also avail leave for twenty-eight days of paid sick leave along with other leaves as per the Karnataka Shops and Establishment Act 1961.
The Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) has also relaxed the provision of the Employees State Insurance (General) Regulations, 1950 and allowed for the ESI contribution for February 2020 and March 2020 to be filed and paid up to April 15, 2020, and May 15, 2020, respectively instead of 15th March and 15th April 2020, respectively.
The economic impact of the novel virus on every economic
stratum, starting from daily wage workers to bigger corporate players to public
sectors, remains to be seen. Until then, in the interest of the wellbeing of
self, co-workers and the health of a company/establishment at large, following
the necessary precautions as currently mandated by our government is strongly