Cos Introduce Special Leave to Ensure Isolated Staff Get Pay

THINKING LONG TERM Move meant to encourage social distancing so that any potentially infected employee does not attend work and spread the virus among others

Top Indian companies are closing ranks to protect their employees in the fight against Covid-19 by introducing special provisions in company policies to assure quarantining staff that their isolation period will not affect their take home salaries.

Steel major Tata Steel has tweaked its leave policy to include a “special leave” provision for any employee who might need to selfquarantine or stay away from office due to perceived Corona virus exposure.

The “special leave” provision, which will be applicable for white as well as blue collared workers, will enable even a person who has not been diagnosed sick but has either been advised or has decided to self-quarantine. The leave can be taken for any number of days required for the employee to recover during which period the person will be entitled to full pay and the other regular leaves such as sick leave and privilege leaves will remain unaffected.

“We have introduced a special leave provision where, in case a person wants to or is recommended to self-isolate, he or she can take leave till as long as required,” said Suresh Tripathy, vice-president – human resources of Tata Steel.

“The idea is people should not worry about leaves at this time. We want to facilitate social distancing whenever the need be, so that the employee does not hesitate to stay at home in fear of leave being deducted or pay getting cut,” said Tripathy.

Others like RPG Enterprises is also advising and encouraging employees to take leave for as long as they need in cases where they are unable to work from home till the time they get better. To facilitate this, RPG has come up with an “exceptional” leave policy with full pay for as long as needed.

Food delivery app Swiggy is currently working on similar policies and is expected to roll it out shortly.

“This is a never-anticipated situation and if someone is unwell they can be away from work for as long as they want till they are fully fit to join back,” said Supratik Bhattacharyya, chief talent officer, RPG Group.

Tata Steel is encouraging people perceived to be more vulnerable to catch the infection, like expecting mothers, to take leave for as long as needed in cases where they cannot work from home. All leaves will be fully paid, said Tata Steel’s head of HR.

While legal experts said that as per laws, employee can avail entitled leave (sick leave, privileged or earned leave, etc), in situations where they are not unwell but is self-quarantining or asked to quarantine, several companies in India are taking the leap forward to allow fully paid special leaves in a bid to encourage social distancing so that any potentially infected employee does not attend work and spread the virus among others.

“Employers are looking at this situation as entirely different from any other and considering such absence from work as paid leave while the other regular annual leaves remained untouched,” said Anshul Prakash, partner, Khaitan & Co, a specialist in employment and labour law.

Legal experts and companies are also looking at how to prevent discrimination on medical ground so that an employer cannot invoke employment contract and terminate someone on medical reasons for being away from work for more than a month.

Auto major Mahindra & Mahindra, however, said that all leaves taken will get deducted from the employees’ annual leave basket. If someone had travelled to one of the red-listed countries (nations that have reported higher number of corona virus affected cases) they are quarantined as part of the tour. However, if someone had gone on a personal holiday, then the person will have to avail from the already existing “exigency leave” which is a combination of casual and sick leave and can be availed up to a maximum of 70 days, said Prince Augustin, executive vice president, group human capital & leadership development at Mahindra & Mahindra. In addition, they can also avail their privileged leaves.

“We can see a lot of discussion going on in companies around policies pertaining to employees’ physical and financial wellbeing that need to be revisited,” said Anurag Malik, partner – people advisory services, EY India.

“Most companies are granting paid time off for employees with symptoms and will also do so for employees who must take care of family members diagnosed with Covid-19 and those who may themselves get diagnosed with Covid-19,” he said.

Source:- The Economic Times

Date:- 18th March,2020-Wednesday


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