The pandemic has had an adverse effect on every industry. The news of termination of employment or employee layoffs due to COVID-19 is on the headlines of every media house. Asset prices are tanking and business sales are plummeting beyond imagination – no wonder there is such an increase in job losses in India in the last few months.
While the unlock mode is on, some Indian employers are learning to adapt to the changing times and are altering their traditional mode of work to reduce contact between employees. There are other employers that are finding it tough to manage their way through these desperate times and are thus terminating employees without giving them a fair enough reason for taking this drastic step.
The employment issues in India have reached a gloomy state. Termination of employment due to the economic crisis is a major concern that needs immediate attention of the stakeholders. While the central and state governments did release advisories to safeguard the interest of employees and ascertain their financial security, the cases of unlawful termination of employees haven’t yet stopped. Whether or not it is right to put employee termination during this crisis in the category of unlawful termination is a matter that is still out for the jury to decide. However, looking at the current state of affairs where employees are terminated without being given a good enough cause and without any fault of their own, is a complete lack of empathy from Indian companies and leaders.
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The governments, both at the center and state levels are doing their bit, but it is now up to the other stakeholders, especially employers to ensure that these advisories are strictly followed. One such instance is the directive issued by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment directed at the Chief Secretaries of state governments to release advisories asking both public and private employers to abstain from terminations and layoffs during a crisis. Another instance is the central government’s announcement asking employers to look at the situation in a humanitarian way and not turn to economic actions that can make survival even tougher for employees, especially contractual and casual workmen.
Now it is important for private sector employees to understand that they command no special status when fighting a legal battle against their employers for wage cuts or termination of employment. People employed in the private sector need to look around for other ways to challenge their employers for their uncalled for decisions in these tough times. The contract of employment that is a mutual agreement between an employer and an employee, signed at the time of an employee’s joining, is something that both the parties can turn to. Employers and employees can mutually agree on a reduced salary in the light of the financial adversities that have befallen most if not every business out there. If an employee doesn’t agree to the employer’s proposal of working at a reduced salary, the employer then can choose to terminate the employee and offer compensation in return according to the terms mentioned in the contract. Employees can’t go to court for reinstatement.
During this state of crisis in the entire world, it is not just the responsibility of the government to take measure for the welfare of the people but also businesses to ensure that they are not taking any action that can put the livelihoods of their employees at stake.
- “COVID-19, Unlawful Termination and Withheld Wages: Employee’s Perspective” | Animay Singh | 22 July 2020
- “Illegal Termination of an Employee during Covid-19” | Kishan Dutt | 19 July 2020
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