New additions to the HR lexicon

People waiting to board a bus in New Delhi. Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

‘COVID leave’ is the latest addition to the HR lexicon, and in some companies employees are getting familiar with synonyms of it.

Texas Instruments has introduced a four-week ‘COVID leave’ as a category of special paid leave. Shubhra Bhandari, Director HR, Texas Instruments India explains it could be availed on account of any personal challenges arising out of the COVID-19 situation, including treatment.

Similarly Bolo Indya, a Gurugram-based start-up, has made it mandatory that six days of “casual compensated leave” must be taken by every employee, every quarter.

Previously, though this was made available, it was not made mandatory and the COVID-19 crisis has led to the new directive.

“After we introduced WFH arrangement, some of my colleagues were not having fixed work hours and their day would extend till the wee hours, and so this leave is essentially an exercise to help them find some work-life balance in the new normal,” says Varun Saxena, founder, Bolo Indya.

Both the companies have worked on their WFH policies, giving it wider scope to cover allowance to buy or rent ergonomic furniture and other technology tools.

Bolo Indya has also announced that it will also be taking care of operational expenses of air-conditioners in the work-from-home area of the employees’ home.

A work in progress

HR professionals point out that regulatory and legal frameworks supporting WFH are a work in progress.

In May, NASSCOM submitted its recommendations to the Government of India on enabling WFH, and these include “changes in labour laws to redefine working hours, re-look at safety and health in the context of the new work environment and change in I-T laws as expenses incurred by employers to enable WFH”.

Continuous process

HR managers say a policy or a framework must reflect the organisational philosophy, what is happening around it and it should have an element of continuity to it. COVID has become an opportunity for many companies to revise old policies.

While some policies are being reviewed annually such as insurance, those relating to leave are being revisited once in a couple of years, says Shubhra.

“For instance, in April, we made changes to our insurance policy to expand its definition so that it also covers employees with same sex partners. It was not to do with any crisis but more to do with societal changes happening around us,” says Shubhra. She says a collaborative approach must be followed while making any policy changes.

Texas Instruments took a survey of employees in May to understand their needs before redrafting its WFH. “We always had a WFH policy but it was exercised flexibly. Earlier, before the COVID-19 crisis, only a maximum of 20 per cent of the employees would be exercising the WFH option at any given time; and now, only that percentage works in the office. So we wanted to gauge the response of the people,” she says.

Other contracts

Among the queries that banking and finance lawyer Abhishek Ray, working as principal associate with J. Sagar Associates, has been getting is applicability of ‘force majeure’ provisions in various commercial contracts.

“Parties to commercial agreements, who are facing various operational issues in the current situation, are evaluating various contractual terms including force majeure, sometimes to terminate an agreement or understand how it can be used,” says Ray. Other concerns in relation to working from home that may arise could be in relation to information security compliances, he says.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 8:42:38 AM |

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