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COVID-19 | Protection & incentives to employees & workers

Author: Gaurav Shanker, Managing Partner And Yamini Mishra, Associate |

Article by Business Law Chamber

With the COVID cases rising at high pace, the Government of India as a precautionary measure, has announced a nationwide shut down which has brought businesses to a standstill. 

In order to protect interest of the employees and contract workers, Government of India has issued various orders and advisories. The Ministry of Labour & Employment issued a circular advisory providing relief to workers and employees in this time of the pandemic. Some of the key points of the advisory are:

  1. The employers of public/private establishments have been advised to not terminate their employees, particularly casual or contractual workers from job or reduce their wages. Further, if any worker takes leave during the pandemic, the employer should not deduct his wages for that period. 
  2. State /Union Territories (UTs) Governments have been advised to transfer funds in the account of construction workers through DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) mode from the cess fund collected by the Labour Welfare Boards under the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, to support unorganized construction workers who sustain their livelihood on daily wages. 
  3. Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) advises its members, pensioners and employers to avail various online services offered by EPFO remotely, and avoid visiting EPFO office. 

Further, Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has amended the Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) Scheme to provide advance to the EPF members, wherein, during this situation of pandemic, the EPF member to draw up to 75 per cent of their non-refundable advance or 3 months of wages, whichever is lower. 

The Government of India will for the next three months, in wake of coronavirus outbreak, pay the EPF contribution both of the employer and the employee at 12 per cent each. However, this scheme will be applicable for organisation with up to 100 employees, where 90 per cent of employees draw less than INR 15,000 salary. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs on 29 March 2020 issued an order restricting the movement of migrant. The order contains the following measures:

  1. State / UT Governments shall ensure adequate arrangements of temporary shelters, and provision of food etc. for the poor and needy people, including migrant labourers, stranded due to lockdown measures in their respective areas.
  2. The migrant people, who have moved out to reach their home states/home towns, must be kept in the nearest shelter by the respective State/UT Government quarantine facilities after proper screening for a minimum period of 14 days as per standard health protocol.
  3. All the employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages of their workers, at their work places, on the due date without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.
  4. Wherever the workers, including the migrants, are living in rented accommodation, the landlords of those properties shall not demand payment of rent for a period of one month. 
  5. If any landlord is forcing labours and students to vacate their premises, they will be liable for action under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. 

Further, any person who refuses to comply with any directions or violates any orders and advisories of the Government shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or financial penalty or both. However, if the violation of the order causes any loss to life or property then with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.