Shift in the workplace legal structure

COVID-19 has completely revolutionized the workplace by pushing most of the organizations and the businesses to quickly switch from ‘office model’ to ‘work-from-home’ model. While working under the roof of an office, there existed legislations and legal framework to monitor the behaviour, but those existing policies need to be adjusted so as to incorporate the WFH scenario.

Some key areas where the legal framework needs to be adjusted are:

  1.  Women working at night. Previously as per the Shops and Establishment Act of each state, women employees were prohibited to work during some specified hours at night or they have to arrange for transport services along with escort to make sure that they reach their home safely. So employers had to face compliance issue with regard to women employees. But now since most female employees have moved to WFH, so the employers are free from such compliance issues and at the same time, the floor is open for the employers to look out for those women population who could not previously access the jobs due to geographical and other constraints.
  2. Change in compensation structure. Previously many allowances such as conveyance allowance, meal allowance or food coupons were given out to employees as a part of hardship allowance. But this might not be attractive now considering the WFH scenario. Instead, employers should provide other allowances such as internet reimbursement, ergonomic allowances, IT expenses etc.
  3. Sexual harassment at the new workplace. POSH Act was passed in the year 2013 for the prevention of sexual misconduct at office. But now as the workplace has changed, new forms of misconduct such as repeated phone calls at inappropriate and ungodly hours, forcing to switch on videos, playfully passing lewd remarks and over-discussion of work are creeping up with time. Considering the face that the boundary between work and home has become blurred, POSH needs to incorporate some new rules to prevent such misconduct.
  4. Overtime work. Just a few months back, employers used to measure productivity by checking the entry and exit times of an employee. They used to do so by either swiping their cards or by biometric screening. So if an associate is doing overtime work, usually it was thought that the person is very hardworking. But now the associates are working from home, so performance should now be measured depending on the outcome of the employees rather than on the time spent on doing the work.
  5. Security and compliance threats. SEZ does not have guidelines for WFH facility but STPI has it. As per them, it is necessary for the employees to work on Virtual Private Network. So employees should spend on securing a robust and private WiFi so that that IT security is not compromised on the local system and confidentiality is maintained.
  6. Modification of labour laws like maternity benefits and compensation laws. Previously associates can claim compensation from the employers if any accident occurs at the workplace, but now with the WFH arrangement, the existing compensation laws need to be modified so as to arrange for any compensation if any accident occurs at home.

Our workplace dynamics have completely changed and to enable smooth transition, employers also need to look into the existing legal structure so that eventually the employees does not feel to be disadvantaged. Our home is the new workplace and so laws have to be adjusted taking our ‘home-office’ into consideration.

Source – Self