Companies step up to help employees, temporary workers amid lockdown

man-works-laptop-computer-editting-research-shut-media-desk-shut (File) Representational image

The COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown announced across the country have hurt businesses hard. Amid challenges, companies are coming forward to ensure that their employees suffer the least and their morale remains high.

While most companies had introduced wide scale work from home policies, some companies have announced early salary, some are paying for the coronavirus tests of their employees, and some others are creating contingency fund to be used to reduce the impact of the current unprecedented situation. Furthermore, these efforts are not just restricted to their permanent employees, but to also those who are temporary or on contract as well as their vendor and service partners.

N. Chandrasekaran, the chairman of Tata Sons said the group companies would ensure full payments to temporary workers and daily wage earners working across its offices and sites for March and April 2020, even if they are not able to work due to plant closures and or quarantines.

“The health and safety of our employees, their families and our suppliers, vendors and our larger ecosystem is of paramount importance,” said Chandrasekaran.

Small and medium enterprises will be among the hardest hit due to the current lockdown. Chandrasekaran said Tata Group companies follow a policy of making timely payments of legitimate dues.

He said this will be monitored closely in the current situation and to ensure their vendors and suppliers have enough liquidity, Tata companies will ensure that the dues are paid on an immediate basis.

Among the few things that are still open amid the lockdown are banks. Most top lenders had already reduced branch times to remain open only between 10am to 2pm. There are limited number of people working in the branches and customer contact centers, as the focus is on only ensuring that the most essential services like cash deposits and withdrawals, clearing cheques, remittances and government transactions.

Private sector lender Kotak Mahindra Bank is disbursing its salaries early—on March 26. It also said that employees or their immediate family members who have been advised COVID-19 testing will have the costs of the tests done through private labs reimbursed to them.

Hero Cycles, meanwhile, is setting aside a Rs 100 crore contingency fund, which will be put to use as and when required to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 situation on employees, suppliers, customers and communities.

“We understand that long term lockdowns are bound to impact the supply chains and livelihoods associated with our business. At such a time, we want to make sure that we do our best in cushioning our partners, distributors, associates, employees as well as the communities we work in against economic troubles,” said Pankaj Munjal, chairman, Hero Motors Company.

Similarly, mining giant Vedanta has set up a Rs 100 crore fund, which would cater towards the livelihoods of daily wage workers, employees and contract workers and preventative health care.

“Vedanta will not cut salaries or fire any staff, including temporary workers during this crisis period. It has also decided to provide special, one time insurance to cover Vedanta’s employees and their families against COVID19,” it said.

Industry organisations like the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) are also stepping up to do their bit for the large unorganised workforce.

GJEPC will contribute a fund of Rs 50 crore from its reserves, which will be utilised to aid the daily wage workers employed in the gems and jewellery industry whose livelihood is directly impacted by the virus outbreak.

Many daily wage workers in the industry have been rendered jobless due to cancellation of export orders.

“Our businesses are impacted, but the most affected is our daily wage worker community. This is an industry that contributes seven per cent of India’s total GDP and employs more than five million work force. It becomes important and mandatory at such distressing times to take adequate care of our employees and support them wholeheartedly,” said Pramod Agarwal, chairman of GJEPC.

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