IT urges remote-enabling labour law tweaks

September 10, 2020 10:51 pm | Updated 10:51 pm IST - Chennai

Sector wants less than 30 hours a week deemed ‘part-time’ to add more women

BENGALURU - KARNATAKA - 09/02/2019 : Reforms: Time for Version 2.0?...... Keshav Murugesh, Group Chief Executive Officer, WNS Global Services, - in conversation with Raghavan Srinivasan, Editor, The Hindu Business Line, at the annual thought conclave The Huddle 2019, in Bengaluru on February 09, 2019. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

The IT-BPM industry has sought revisions in labour laws for enabling remote delivery of services such as those facilitated by work-from-home and part-time professionals.

“We would like to tap into the talent pool that comprises millennials, retired professionals and women with post-secondary education, who can devote 3-4 hours to work every day,” Keshav Murugesh, past chairman of Nasscom and global CEO of business process management (BPM) firm WNS, said in an interview. “This can bring in more than 110 million women with degrees, who are not currently part of the workforce,” he added.

“The industry has made a formal representation to relevant officials in government,” he said, adding that the officials had agreed to look into all aspects of the labour policy.


“Government should embrace treatment based on pay,” he said. “Employees drawing salary above a certain threshold should be treated as supervisory staff,” he added.

For example, the salary of an IT professional earning ₹15 lakh per year was higher than a traditional supervisor’s pay.

“But the professional is treated as a ‘workman’ under the Industrial Disputes Act. The recommendation is to bring a salary ceiling of ₹5 lakh per annum while determining the status of ‘workmen’. The laws relating to overtime and shifts must not be made applicable to those earning above this threshold.”


The industry has also recommended that it be exempted from contributing to PF, ESIC or Workmen Compensation for those working part-time or while studying. “The industry anyway protects healthcare insurance at its cost. Any person committing less than 30 hours of work per week should be deemed part-time.” This, he said, would allow the sector to employ more ‘homemakers’ and students who are time-constrained by multiple responsibilities.

If the industry has its way, employees may even be able to receive educational degrees from select companies. “For the right kind of organisation, basis the merit, licences should be allowed for specific qualifications. For example, Bachelors in Business Process Re-engineering... This would allow us to use the distance-learning methodology as also employ people in remote places.” Such a move would help expand the educational and employability landscape, he said.

Retrenchment norms

Among the industry’s recommendations to the government is the simplification of retrenchment norms.

“Philippines has a floating status concept, where an employee is not made redundant but is on a ‘no work-no pay’ status,” he pointed out. “He or she is still covered from a health insurance perspective and is also free to find another job,” Mr. Murugesh added.

“Professional tax must be made common across States. This would facilitate the work-from-anywhere concept,” he added.

He added that one of the recommendations is on the purview of wages under the proposed Uniform Code of Wages.

“The new Code will include all payments exceeding 50% of total pay under the definition of ‘wages’. The IT-ITeS industry, however, very commonly employs ad-hoc payments by way of a variety of incentive schemes based on production, performance and clients’ recognition. Such ad-hoc payments may or may not be a part of the employment contract. These ad-hoc payments as incentive also help to motivate and in turn retain good talent. Therefore, such ad-hoc payments made pursuant to incentive schemes must be excluded from the purview of ‘wages’ even if they exceed 50% of the total salary,” he said.

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