Employment during the times of Covid-19

Employment during the times of Covid-19

Date : 21 Sep, 2020

Post By Advocate Darpa Pattanaik

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in India, the unprecedented nation-wide lockdown mandating closure of commercial, private and industrial establishments (with limited exceptions) has been extended from time to time since 24.04.2020. The COVID-19 pandemic represents a major public health challenge and is having serious economic and social impacts. Special attention should be given to protecting migrant workers in the informal economy by pursuing innovative policies in order to reach them quickly. Although many countries have put in place short-term social protection measures to support migrant workers, those with comprehensive social protection systems were better equipped to respond to the crisis.

This pandemic has seen a change in the attitude of the people with respect to giving priority to mental and physical health, sanitization, cleanliness, personal hygiene. Therefore, it is important for us to check on the regulations put forth by the government and follow them strictly. 

Dimension Changes in the pattern of working

The pandemic has changed the dimension of workaround the globe across the sectors- skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled.The work that was considered never to be completed by working from home, is now taking a new dimension as every sector, every work is being approached with a fresh and creative thought process. On one side, as the pandemic has taken the jobs of many, on the other hand, there are a lot of individuals who have come up with start-ups or new approaches to their already existing jobs. The changes that have come up now will forever have an impact on the work mannerisms. However tasks such as court hearings, service management, constructions, transportation, domestic helps, etc. which require physical presence of the employee/ laborers are not yet able to cope with the new norms created by the pandemic. 

As a result of the pandemic there are two sides to the situation:

Bright side: The up-side is that, every work has been diversified. As many companies have taken the work from home route, it opens opportunities to many individuals. Anyone sitting at any corner of the world can take up the job, irrespective of the boundaries and travel restrictions. For example, a company in California can now hire its employees who are based out in India. Thus, creating an opportunity for an Indian to work for a foreign company as well as work from home. Many have got the chance to spend quality time with their families, whereas, few of them are happy as they get to take up new hobbies, avoid the tiring travel time and get to work at the comfort of their homes. 

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Instances: Mark Zuckerberg announced that he expects half of Facebook’s employees will work remotely within the next five to 10 years even after COVID restrictions are lifted. Google declared the majority of its employees would continue working from home until 2021, and in a Gartner survey in March 2020, 74% of CFOs expect to shift some employees to remote work permanently.

Down-side: The down-side is that, those who do not fall in the sector where work from home is an option, have either lost their jobs, or are being asked to work with half or no salary being paid. Out of all the semi-skilled and unskilled laborers or migrants are the worst affected. 

Due to lack of work, there are a lot of migrant laborers (majority of which constitute working in the construction sector) who travel to other places for earning their bread and provide financial support for their families in their home towns. But this pandemic has put a pause to all the work in progress projects indefinitely and forced them to unwillingly return back to their home towns with no work in hand, and no hope of having any work in the near future. This is not only the case with India, but with every country across the globe. 

These migrant workers not only move within their countries, but also travel to foreign nations for better opportunities. Most of the Indian wage workers migrate to the Gulf countries. Because of the pandemic, not only have they lost their jobs, but due to travel restrictions they are unable to travel back to where they belong. These migrant send back their earning to their families in India who are entirely dependent on them. These foreign remittances not only form as a part of income for millions of households, but for countries, it makes up for a large proportion of national income. 

Dilip Ratha, the World Bank’s lead economist for migration and remittances, stated in his interview with the Economic times thatin 2020 the remittances are expected to decline to about 20% of the actual. In India, remittances constitute almost double the size of foreign direct investment. Part of the decline is linked to travel bans, lockdowns and social-distancing rules. These reduce the incomes of migrants or lead to their unemployment. Also, their ability to send money home has been disrupted: Banks and money-transfer systems have been closed, and those who might have carried cash with them- 80 to 85% of remittances are in cash- having been unable to travel.

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ILO’s take and comments on the current situation

Comments on youth unemployment

International Labor Organization-Asian Development Bank published a report titled 'Tackling the COVID-19 youth employment crisis in Asia and the Pacific” This report majorly concentrated on the aspect of youth employment in Asia and Pacific region. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, youth in Asia and the Pacific faced challenges in the labor market resulting in high unemployment rates. May also dropped out of education and professional training to join informal work in order to help their families’ financially.ILO fears of a devastating effect on the training and education of the young people. The regional youth (age between 18- 24) unemployment rate was 13.8% when compared to only 3.0% in the adult (age 25- above) in 2019. But, due to the pandemic the pre- crisis has amplified pushing the youth to a more risk prone situation.

The hard hit nations in the Asia Pacific region are Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, where, it is expected that the unemployment rate will be double the rate of unemployment in 2019. Such a disruption is seen in these countries amongst youth and not adults because they are placed in wholesale and retail, trade and repair; manufacturing; rental and business services; and accommodation and food services. These sectors are the hardest hit sectors due to the pandemic. 

The report gives the three ways in which job disruptions have taken place:

  1. Job disruptions in the form of reduced working hours and earnings, and job losses for both paid workers and the self-employed; 

  2. Disruptions in their education and training; and 

  3. Difficulties in transitioning from school to work, and moving between jobs in a recession.

The report has recommended few urgent, large-scale and targeted waysof tackling the crisis in the Asia and Pacific which are 

  1. youth-targeted wage subsidies and public employment programmes

  2. every government must lay down measures to mitigate the impact on students of the disruption to their education and training

  3. the government must include of youth in wider labour market and economic recovery measures

  4. Prioritizing youth employment in the COVID-19 recovery process for inclusive and sustainable growth

https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---asia/---ro-bangkok/documents/image/wcms_753051.jpg

Few key points of the report are:

  1. The construction and agriculture sector are the most hit by this situation, and are at a risk of long-term economic and social costs. 

  2. The young people's employment prospects in Asia and the Pacific are severely challenged due to the pandemic. 

  3. This situation has also interrupted two-thirds of firm-level apprenticeships and three quarters of internships

  4. This report advices the Indian government to take measures for tackling unemployment by adopting to urgent, large-scale and targeted measures to generate jobs for the youth, keep education and training on track.

  5. The highly effected occupations are support, services and sales-related work, making them more vulnerable to the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Apart from these measures that are directed specifically to India, ILO in its reports has also laid guidelines and direction for other countries. The main objective of the reports has been to protect a whole generation of young people from having their employment prospects permanently in scare due to the pandemic. 

Comments on migrant workers

International Labour Organisation has published a report on the protection of the migrant laborers titled- “Social protection for migrant workers: A necessary response to the Covid-19 crisis”. This report majorly focuses on Protecting the health and livelihoods of migrant workers, their wellbeing, financial status, etc. 

Migrant workers make important contributions to societies and economies and hold essential jobs in the current crisis. Nonetheless, migrant workers continue to suffer from a lack of adequate and comprehensive social protection. ILO’s estimates indicate that full and partial lockdown measures are affecting almost 2.2 billion workers or 68 per cent of the global workforce. Migrant workers can be denied or have limited access to social protection benefits owing to legal or administrative restrictions but also to practical barriers like the place in which they work, they country of origin, the sector of working, lack of documentation, nature of employment. Amongst all, women workers must be given even more attention. They constitute a major part of this informal sector as daily wagers. Due to undocumented work, they are denied any benefits. 

ILO has 4 key pillars for fighting COVID-19 based on international labour standards. Social protection forms as an integral part of these pillars. Social protection means building resilience, reduce poverty, facilitate economic reintegration into the labour market, tackle inequalities and maintain social solidarity and security and particular attention should be paid to migrant workers in vulnerable situations. Migrant workers with legal residential status will usually have broader access to social protection than those with irregular status. National social protection floors should guarantee at least a basic level of protection to all (such as emergency health care for migrants, irrespective of their status). The ILO’s Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102), and Recommendation No. 202, among others, provide useful guidance. The four pillars are:

  1. Access to affordable health care,

  2. Access to paid sick leave and sickness benefits

  3. Protecting workers during unemployment

  4. Providing income support through cash transfers

As an action plan for the benefit of migrants, ILO has suggested certain aspects that every government has to focus in order to protect the migrants. They are: 

  1. Protection must be granted at the places of their accommodation- as they might have limited access to support from the officials during this time of crisis, vigilance must be up scaled.

  2. Affordable health care facilities must be provided within reach. 

  3. Sickness benefits must be provided, and they must be assigned with accessible supervisors in order to report their sickness and gain benefits

  4. Providing them with good working and living conditions and access to sanitization. 

  5. Ensuring that access to social protection benefits are not interrupted, such as the extension of visas, work and residence permits; excuse to and more flexible administrative procedures; or exceptions to existing immigration rules and conditions- for migrants from foreign countries.

  6. Providing financial support via cash transfers

ILO’s report has also placed emphasis on the countries that have extended assistance to the migrants during the crisis. (a) France and Spain have extended migrants’ residence permits for three additional months to ensure broad access to health care, (b) Portugal has announced that foreign residents will have equal access to the National Health Service and treatment as regular beneficiaries, (c) The province of British Columbia in Canada is providing short-term migrant workers with access to the Medical Service Plan until 31 July 2020, (d) Colombia is providing free medical consultations to migrants and refugees, regardless of their migration status, with COVID-19 symptoms, (e) Qatar is providing migrants with medical services, including medical check-ups for COVID-19 and quarantine services, free of charge, (f) Saudi Arabia, testing and medical treatment are free of charge for all COVID-19 infection cases irrespective of nationality, (g) Thailand is covering COVID-19 treatment free of charge during the first 72 hours, for both nationals and foreign workers with a valid work permit.

Few countries have also provided financial assistance to migrant workers with certain conditions and eligibility criteria. For example; 

  1. Italy introduced a special COVID-19 economic stimulus entitled “DecretoCura Italia”, which provides an allowance of €600 to certain categories of workers and includes migrant workers who hold a residence permit.

  2. New Zealand, as part of its COVID-19 economic response package, announced that international seasonal migrant workers are entitled to government funding if they fall sick, have to isolate themselves while working in New Zealand (from the start date of their contract) or cannot work because their employer’s business is affected by the lockdown.

  3. Ireland introduced a COVID-19 pandemic unemployment payment, 17 which is a new social protection benefit of €350 per week for employees and self-employed workers for a maximum of 12 weeks.

Conditions of the migrant workers in India and how they have been affected by the pandemic and lockdown 

In the initial period the lockdown in India, majority of the migrant workers have returned back to their home towns. Due to no transport facilities, they were forced to travel 100’s of kilometers by foot, cycling or hitching rides on trucks, water tankers and milk vans. The sight of which was brutal, and yet the government failed to take preventive measures to either keep them intact at the places where they work or provide them with travel facilities.Due to the harsh weather conditions and lack of food, a voluminous number of deaths were reported.  

In order to protect the interest of the migrants who were travelling back to their places, public interest litigations were filed in the Supreme Court, to redress their grievances. The first writ petition was filed under the title AlakhAlokSrivastavavs UOI seeking immediate action to safeguard the rights of migrant workers, and also seeking directions for the state to provide them with essential necessities like food, drinking water, shelter and medical help. The court adjudged the matter in favor of the state. It was satisfied by the claims put forth by the state with respect to providing them with necessities under various schemes and yojanas. The court has also asked the states to comply strictly with all the directions laid by the central and to make any additional regulations as per requirement. Media was asked to be vigilant with the type of news they publish so as to prevent panic being created amongst the citizens. The state claimed the following: 

  1. Relief package announced by the Central Government of Rs.1,70,000 Crores called  the "Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana" whereby poor people (including migrant workers) were to be provided with (i) 5 kg food grains (rice and wheat) (ii) 1 kg pulses, and (iv) 1 gas cylinder, all free of cost for the next 3 months;

  2. Construction workers (mostly migrant laborers) were to be provided with financial assistance through "Welfare Fund for Building and Other Construction Workers"

  3. Transportation steps taken by various state governments were directed to be brought to a halt and prohibited further movement of inter-district and inter-state migration and directed the states to stay put enroute migrant workers wherever they are, and provide them shelter, food and medical facilities.

  4. Central Government directed respective State Governments to shift migrant workers on the move and about to reach their respective hometowns/ villages to nearest shelter homes and quarantine them for minimum 14 days

  5. As per the information received by the Control Rooms, 21,064 relief camps have been set up by various State Governments/Union Territories where the migrant workers have been shifted, and being provided with basic amenities like food, medicines, drinking water, etc.; that about 6,66,291 people have been provided with shelter, while 22,88,279 number of people have been provided food.

  6. Exercise powers under Disaster Management Act, 2005, mandatory directions issued to all employers to make payment of wages to their workers at their work places on the due date, without any deduction for the period such establishment is closed due to the declared lockdown; District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police/ Deputy Commissioner of Police of each District given powers to ensure strict compliance;

  7. Directions issued to landlords of migrant workers and other poor people living in rented accommodation not compelled them to pay the rent with strict orders to the district administration to take action against violating landlords.

In the further days one Public interest litigation was filed titled  Harsh Mander & Anr. vs Union of India, whereby directions were sought  seeking immediate payment of minimum wages to migrant workers and the self-employed poor suffering due to the nation-wide Corona-virus lockdown. This petition was filed pertaining to the order issued on 29.03.2020, whereby the Ministry of Home Affairs directed all employers to pay wages to the migrant workers, and for their landlords to not evict them. The petitioners claimed these measures not sufficient, and wanted the state to pay wages to all the migrants irrespective of the place they were. The court claimed that they were not experts in commenting or giving a ruling about the matters that were in question. The court said that these economic policy matters and the records pertaining to that are missing; therefore, the case was dismissed. This case turned out to become a very controversial issue between the judiciary and the executive. On the one hand the court was not in a position to give an advice on a matter needing expert opinion, and on the other hand the public was not happy with the work of the executive. 

The measures as mentioned the writ petition 1 are the guidelines prescribed by the government of India for the welfare of the migrants. The government has been vigilant about the conditions and has laid down precautionary guidelines. But, the execution of those has not been up to the mark. The main problem is with the lack of regulation and maintaining of proper documentation with the state government as well as the employers. Tracking the moment of the migrant would have been easy, if technology was used efficiently from the very beginning in order to place the list of all the persons working in the informal sector.

Measures by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has also released a series of clarification in the form of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on their website, pertaining to payment of wages and Corporate Social Responsibility ('CSR'), which clarified the following:

  1. Payment of salary/wages to employees and workers during the lockdown period is a moral obligation of the employers, as they have no alternative source of employment or livelihood during this period. Therefore, payment of salary/ wages to employees and workers during the lockdown period would not qualify as admissible CSR expenditure.

  2. Payment of wages to temporary/casual/daily-wage workers during the lockdown period is part of the moral/humanitarian/contractual obligations of the company and is applicable to all companies irrespective of whether they have any legal obligation for CSR contribution under section 135 of the Companies Act 2013. Therefore, payment of wages to temporary or casual or daily wage workers during the lockdown period shall not count towards CSR expenditure.

  3. However, if any ex-gratia payment is made to temporary/casual/daily-wage workers over and above the disbursement of wages, specifically for the purpose of fighting COVID-19, the same would be admissible towards CSR expenditure, as a one-time exception, provided there is an explicit declaration to that effect by the Board of the company, which is duly certified by the statutory auditor.

In the present day, that is the lockdown 4.0, as we see all the works resuming, 2/3rds of the migrant workers are willing to return back to the cities to start working. Even though the corona virus has not subsided, due to lack of opportunities, and financial support from the government, they are willing to join back. 

Not only the laborers, but with every activity open for progress in work, the employers are also willing to bring back their employees. Due to the lockdown and a halt in the works, the constructions sites are now ready to kickstart their works. For that reason, they require laborers who have travelled back to their places. In order to bring them back, each and every one is strictly adhering to the norms set by the government and also are being precautious so that they don’t have to stop their work again. Majority of the migrants belong to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Few realtors in Mumbai have requested the railway minister to arrange for trains from places in these states for the convenient travel. Companies are also tying up with other organisations, so that they can give best of facilities for their laborers. 

States have set up their own committees and commissions for the benefit of the workers

Measures being taken by the Uttar Pradesh government: The UP government is working on providing life, medical and accidental death insurance cover to migrant workers. They have set up a migrant commission in order to mitigate the troubles of the migrant. The objective of the Migrant Commission is providing social security cover to workers under the unorganized sector. The state is holding discussions with insurance companies to explore whether premium requirements under the existing PM Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and the PM Suraksha Bima Yojana can be reworked to cover nearly 40 million workers in the unorganized sector, including street vendors and rickshaw pullers who are the worst hit by this pandemic. 

As we see that majority of the construction workers in India are migrants of UP, the UP government has taken steps to preserve their interests during this time. For the social security of the construction workers, there are about 2 million who are registered under the Building and other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act. This act provides for 16 schemes including medical insurance and pension in case of death or disability. Therefore, all those registered are covered under these schemes of the act. 

Measures being taken by the Karnataka government:Bengaluru city, experienced large-scale reverse migration of daily wage laborers. The state government plans to build four transit homes in Bengaluru, each with a capacity to accommodate at least 3,000 workers. These homes will have kitchens for workers to cook their own meals. They will pay a nominal maintenance fee for the stay. The government would be spending approximately 50 crores on this project. Migrant labourers’ associations have welcomed the government move.  The concept is based on Kerala’s widely appreciated ‘ApnaGhar’ project.

Measures being taken by the Gujarat government: The State of Gujarat has vide a notification dated April 17, 2020 exempted all factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948 from various provisions mandating the workers to the prescribed number of weekly hours, daily hours, intervals for rest etc., that they need to abide by until July 2020. The state is yet to take decision upon the current course of action. The following changes were made to the provisions of the act. 

  1. No adult worker shall be allowed or required to work in a factory for more than twelve (12) hours a day and seventy-two (72) hours in a week.

  2. No worker shall work for more than six (6) hours before he has had an interval for rest for at least half an hour on each day.

  3. No female worker shall be allowed or required to work in a factory between 7:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

  4. Wages shall be in proportion of the existing wages. (E.g. if wages for eight (8) hours are Rs. 80, then the proportionate wages for twelve (12) hours will be Rs. 120).

Measures being taken by the Rajasthan government: The State of Rajasthan has issued a notification dated April 11, 2020 for extending working hours to twelve (12) hours per day for a period of three (3) months from the date of the order. To reduce manpower requirements in factories manufacturing essential food and grocery supplies, the Government of Rajasthan has exempted the provisions of working hours of adult workers under the Factories Act, 1948 subject to a few conditions. It is also clarified that the additional four (4) hours per day shall be paid as overtime subject to an overtime limit of twenty-four (24) hours per week.

Measures being taken by the Himachal Pradesh government: The State of HP has issued a notification dated April 21, 2020 exempting all factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948 from provisions relating to weekly, daily, spread hours and interval of rest until July 20, 2020 subject to the following conditions:

  1. No worker shall work in a factory for more than twelve (12) hours in any day and seventy-two (72) hours in a week.

  2. No worker shall work for more than six (6) hours before he has had an interval for rest for at least half an hour.

  3. Wages in respect of increased working hours as a result of the exemption shall be in proportion to existing minimum wages fixed by the Government of HP under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

  4. Provisions of Section 59 pertaining to overtime wages shall continue to be applicable without any change.

INDIAN GOVERNMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE LABORERS AMIDST COVID

  1. Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Calculation: the ministry of Labour and Employment has reduced the rate of provident fund contribution for employer and employee from existing 12% of monthly basic pay and dearness allowance to 10% for the months of May, June and July 2020. This will be implied to all the state and central government owned entities as well as those who fall under the classes of establishments covered under the Provident Fund Act.

Indian government has made amendments to the Employees’ Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act to allow members to withdraw up to 75 percent of their balance in the fund or three months’ wages, whichever is lower, as an emergency measure to tide over any difficulties arising from the coronavirus pandemic. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers, who are registered with the EPF.

  1. Working during the lockdown:  

  1. The Ministry of Labour & Employment’s order dated 20.03.2020 has advised all the employers of Public / Private Establishments not to terminate their employees, particularly casual or contractual workers from the job, or reduce their wages.

  2. If any worker takes leave or if the place of employment is made non-operational due to COVID-19, the employees of such unit will be deemed to be on duty.

  3. All the employers of public/private establishments to extend their coordination by not terminating their employees, particularly casual or contractual workers during this period as the termination of employment or reduction in wages would further hamper their morale to fight this pandemic.

  4. The Ministry of Home Affairs also vide its Order dated 29.03.2020 directs the employers to make payments of wages to their workers, at their workplaces, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during lockdown.

  1. Reopening of Manufacturing Industrial Units: National Disaster Management Authority (“NDMA”) has issued a series of guidelines for restarting manufacturing industries after the lockdown period. Employers need to maintain social distancing norms, 24 hours sanitization of the units as well as employee accommodation, provide PPE kits, hand sanitizers and face masks to all the employees, check temperature twice a day. They need to follow all the guidelines without fail for the safety and wellbeing of the entire unit. 

  2. Ministry of Labour and Employment has launched WORKERS HELPLINE to address any Wage related grievances of Workmen, in the backdrop of COVID-19

  3. Measures by The Ministry of Finance:

  1. they announced ₹1.70 lakh crore package ‘PradhanMantriGareebKalyanYojana’, targetting 80 crore people affected by lockdown. Under the scheme, for next three months, each person will get additional 5 kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to 5 kg per month already given under PDS. One kg of pulses will be provided per household, according to regional preferences.

  2. The first instalment of PM-KISAN for 2020-21, which is ₹2,000, will be given in April itself. As many as 8.69 crore farmers are likely to get immediate benefit.

  3. The wages of MGNREGA workers has been increased from Rs. 182 to ₹202 per day. This will benefit 5 crore families, and will result in an additional ₹2,000 given per worker. Social distancing norms must be followed at MGNREGA worksites during this period.

  4. States being asked to utilise funds from the Central Government Fund for Welfare of Construction Workers to provide assistance and support to workers affected by the economic disruption. It will benefit 3.5 crore workers registered with the fund, which has about Rs. 31,000 crore.

  5. Announced medical insurance of Rs 50 lakh each, for paramedics, nurses, ASHA workers and others working on the frontlines of fighting the Covid 19 across the country, which will benefit about 20 lakh people.

LEGAL OBLIGATION OF THE EMPLOYERS’ IN THE UK

Government has issued a detailed guidance for the employers to follow in the UK for the well-being and protection of their employees and their businesses till the extent possible. However, these guidelines are different for Wales, Scotland and North Ireland. These guidelines include decisions with respect to discretion over working arrangements, allowing employees to continue to work from home or alternatively, facilitate a return to the workplace. In any decision that the employer intends to take, the government has advised to take note on the opinions of the employees. 

Health and safety: government has issued a notification titled “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines for the employers to follow when they reopen their businesses. They give an elaborate “5 steps to working safety” and 14 work place specific guidance documents for the industries that require contact with the customer or that require presence at the place of work. As per government guidelines the five key points that all employers should be aware are:

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment (in line with HSE Guidance), in consultation with workers or trade unions and share the result on their websites. 

  2. Increase in frequency of cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures.

  3. Help people to work from home by discussing home working arrangements, ensuring they have the right equipment to do so

  4. Maintain two meter social distancing wherever possible

  5. Where people cannot be two meters apart, manage transmission risk

Financial assistance: The UK government has introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in an effort to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by COVID-19. The CJRS is also known as the "furlough" scheme.  Under the CJRS, employers can apply for a grant that covers a percentage of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, subject to a monthly cap ("CJRS Grants") A job retention bonus was also introduced where, the employer would be paid £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is brought back to work and who is still working by January 2021. 

A new “Kickstart Scheme” which is fully subsidized jobs for young people aged 16-24 that will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage (for up to 25 hours a week per employee) has been introduced. Businesses will be granted a one-off subsidy of £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25. These steps taken by the UK government are very commendable. They are incentivized which encourages the employers to retain and also hire new employees. These schemes are made to benefit both the employer and an employee, thus having a balanced approach. 

LEGAL OBLIGATION OF THE EMPLOYERS’ IN AUSTRALIA

The Australia Federal Government and each State and Territory government has authorised a broad range of actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the Australian Government has activated the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Coronavirus (Emergency Response Plan) which sets key activities to minimize risk of further disease transmission in the event of a global pandemic. They including 'social distancing' measures such as workplace closures, compulsory quarantine, or declaration of a state of emergency. Employers should carry out a risk assessment and consider any factors that may make employees particularly susceptible to infection. Employers should also circulate up-to-date information on good hygiene practices and provide any necessary equipment to facilitate this, such as hand sanitizers and ensuring social distancing can be maintained in the workplace.

Health and safety: In Australia, the employer has to also take into note the extent to which he is taking note of the employee’s health status. As per their Privacy Act, such information, to the extent it relates to the employee's health, is sensitive information.  Sensitive information can be collected with the individual's consent, provided it is reasonably necessary to be collected. In the absence of consent, an employer may also collect sensitive information in relation to COVID-19 under the uniform Work Health and Safety Act as an employer is required, as a primary duty of care, to ensure the safety and health of its workers so far as is reasonably practicable. Subsequent use or disclosure of COVID-19 information as it relates to an employee should only be disclosed where it is directly related to the primary purpose of collection, and the employee would reasonably expect the employer to disclose the information for that secondary purpose. 

Conclusion

This pandemic might have caused havoc in the lives of many but has brought an important lesson to the public that is “Dignity of Labour”. With the lockdown in place back in march, the migrants have travelled back to their native places, and that has pinched the realtors very hard. They have realized the taken for granted attitude that they had toward laborers. By this pandemic, the government has also learnt it the hard way that health and social safety are of paramount importance. They have not placed a lot of thought towards the future of medicine and health services. 

The entire world has been in this pandemic together. According to the needs of the people and situation, the governments have come up with policies, amendments, measures, guidelines that are required to be followed very strictly in order to fight this corona virus. Out of all the measures and guidelines that ILO has prescribed, social protection is the most important. 

Although many countries have put in place short-term social protection measures to support migrant workers, not all migrant workers have been able to benefit from such measures. As countries emerge from the pandemic, they have an opportunity to build back better and stronger social protection systems. It is important that, where possible, these measures be incorporated into longer-term strategies. Integrating migrant workers into contributory social security systems may support the expansion of social protection coverage and their transition to the formal economy, thereby also increasing fiscal space and potentially self-financing that expansion.

Governments, together with social partners and other stakeholders, should take this opportunity to put in place integrated approaches that include migrant workers in national social protection responses, in line with the equality-of-treatment and non-discrimination principles enshrined in international human rights, international labour standards and the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work. Such approaches will play an important role in mitigating the effects of COVID19, supporting economic and social recovery and building resilience for responding to future crises.

Lastly, the government has now realized how much professional training, internship and apprenticeship play a role in developing the personality of an individual. This gap of 6-8 months will take a long time to be bridged with respect to the job opportunities, transition from school to training, etc. new norms are being adopted and online learning, creative thinking, job satisfaction, investment and savings for emergency, health and personal care are the key take away of this pandemic and lockdown.

The author of this blog is Adv. Darpa Pattanaik having an experience of 15 years in handling employment related matters from his experience he wants to share this beneficial information for the individuals having any issues with respect to employment related matters.

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