In what may come as a relief to industries, the government has watered down a host of stringent workplace norms in its recent order extending the national lockdown for the next two weeks starting May 4, while making it mandatory for employers to send employees symptomatic to the Ccovid-19 to a medical facility and ensuring that workers download the official contract tracing mobile application.
To start with, the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have removed a clause wherein medical insurance for all workers was made mandatory. The previous MHA order, which had permitted economic activities from April 20, had a provision mandating employers to give medical insurance to its workforce. The employers had complained of cost burden to the government and had sought its help to pass on medical insurance to workers through the government schemes.
In another major relief, for all the permitted economic activities, except for construction in urban areas, establishments will no longer have to make arrangement for stay of workers within their premises. Workers can travel in their own personal or public transportation to work.
“Arrangement for transport facilities shall be ensured with social distancing, wherever personal or public transport is not feasible,” according to the new guidelines.
However, employers will have to “earmark” quarantine areas “for isolating employees showing symptoms till they are safely moved” to a nearby medical facility. It will become the responsibility of companies to send their workers, showing any symptom for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), to a medical facility “immediately”.
The employers will also be liable to ensure that all their workers download and install the government’s official contact tracing mobile application, known as the Aarogya Setu. “It shall be the responsibility of the head of the respective organisations to ensure 100% coverage of this (mobile) application among the employees," the order said.
The previous guidelines had made it compulsory for the employers to arrange “dedicated transport” for workers following which they were required to be kept within, or near, the work premises.
Experts had pointed out that the necessary arrangements for transportation and dormitories would have raised the cost for firms and would have not been feasible for smaller factories.
Companies will also not be required to use disinfectant sprays at the work premises and on all vehicles and machinery entering the establishments.
The government has removed a cap on the number of employees who can attend a meeting at the workplace (which was 10 in the previous order) and the need to maintain a gap of six-feet while sitting on job sites has also been done away with. “Large physical meetings are to be avoided,” the new guidelines said.
The requirement to maintain one hour gap between shifts on the job have also been removed with the government mentioning that there should be “adequate gaps between shifts.”
In its latest order, the government has allowed industries to operate in special economic zones, export zones, industrial estates and industrial townships in the urban areas. Further, information technology firms and the jute industry “with staggered shifts and social distancing” have been permitted in urban areas, along with manufacturing of packaging materials.
In the rural areas, however, all economic activities will be allowed. Firms, which have already got an approval from local authorities to operate till May 3, will not need fresh approvals, the government said.