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Work From Home – The New Employment Contract March, 2020

In the Covid 19 ridden world that has taken over each and everyone’s lives, the struggle to keep pace with commitments and daily routines has become the need of the hour. “Work from home” is no longer an option but the norm. Practically speaking, more often than not, most companies do not offer such an alternative nor do they want to provide an employee with the option since it is believed that, this not only lowers the productivity of the employee but also does not imbibe a sense of discipline to adhere to commitments.

However, a “home office” has become a reality and will probably have to be the new normal for all employees and not just the consultants, IT professionals or women on maternity leave. Companies will have to enable support systems and contracts that bind employees to adhere to responsibilities and cultivate a sense of self-professionalism.

Minimize the Disruption

Whilst we scrabble to put systems in place to ensure that its ‘business as usual’ and brace ourselves to accept that the time frame of this eventuality to end is not in our hands, we would be wise to arm ourselves with information that enables the growth of our businesses and have policies in place that can guide our employees.

Communication being one of the key features between Employer and Employee, we are fortunate that virtual communication has provided us with ample platforms to make work from home an effective reality.

Rather than depending on self-discipline, most workforce, irrespective of the industry/sector,  function well when provided a structure, it would be an advantage for both the employer and employee to have a policy/ interim guide or if feasible, individual contracts depending on the position they hold, that will guide them through the terms and conditions of this arrangement.

Some of the key pointers for revision of employment agreements or a force majeure policy:

  • Daily and weekly working hours;
  • A guideline on how the attendance of the employees will be determined;
  • Schedule for virtual meetings between employers and team leaders/ teams.
  • Level of dedication and concentration as expected from employees during working hours or assignment of specific targets to be met on a weekly basis.
  • Structure to maintain the confidentiality of the information shared with the employee/ Cyber security
  • Effective installation of requisite software for solving client queries/ meetings.
  • Determination of any revision in compensation and benefits paid to the employees
  • Establishment of virtual employee allowance or reimbursements for expenses such as the internet, phone, electricity and other utilities.
  • Strict adherence to do’s and don’ts issued by public health authorities from time to time.
  • Extension of Probationary Periods
  • Number of leaves and conditions of termination.
  • Addition of clauses that provide a timeframe for these exceptional terms and conditions.

It is most fortunate that the government has swiftly made several provisions that allow certain flexibilities for corporates. Ensure that these flexibilities in terms of filings, timelines, CSR, disaster management are taken advantage of in the most efficient manner and prepare to refine business response plans as needed.

It is our responsibility as humans to not just support each other but also foray through this pandemic armed with the resources and information that will negate any damaging impact to our way of life and livelihood.

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