Millennium Post

Implement 'Work from Home' policy for employees: Govt advises companies

New Delhi: The government has advised companies to implement 'Work from Home' policy for their staff to encourage "social distancing" to curb the spreading of Coronavirus infections.

As part of relaxations in compliance requirements, the corporate affairs ministry has allowed companies to conduct board meetings through video conference and other audiovisual means until June 30.

In an advisory on Thursday, Corporate Affairs Secretary Injeti Srinivas said the ministry is examining relaxations under the Companies Law that could be implemented in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.

It would also come out with a web form for companies/LLPs to confirm their readiness to deal with the threat. This is aimed at collecting details of companies and LLPs that adopt 'Work from Home' policy.

Since companies/LLPs (Limited Liability Partnerships) are major employers, especially in urban areas, their full participation and cooperation are most essential to fully realise the objective of social distancing as a means to contain the spread, morbidity and mortality due to the disease, he said in the advisory.

They have been strongly advised to put in place an immediate plan to implement the 'Work from Home' policy as a temporary measure till March 31.

"All companies/LLPs are advised to implement the 'Work from Home' policy in their headquarters and field offices to the maximum extent possible, including by conduct of meetings through video conference or other electronic/ telephonic/computerised means," he said.

Even with the essential staff on duty, Srinivas said staggered timings may be followed so as to minimise physical interaction.

"The web form named CAR (Company Affirmation of Readiness towards COVID-19) should be filed by an authorised signatory of companies and LLPs concerned," as per the advisory.

CAR-2020 would be deployed on March 23 and all companies/ LLPs are requested to report compliance using the web service on the same day, it added.

On Friday, Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's office tweeted the advisory as well as the notification regarding relaxation in board meeting norms. She is also the Corporate Affairs minister.

"The government has decided to relax the requirement of holding board meetings with physical presence of directors in view of #COVID19," the minister's office said in the tweet.

On Thursday, a senior official said CAR-2020 would be a way of persuading companies to join hands in containing the disease and the web service would have CIN, PAN, DIN and OTP validation.

It would also encourage a movement towards social distancing, the official added.

CIN is Corporate Identification Number, PAN (Permanent Account Number), DIN (Director Identification Number) and OTP (One Time Password).

According to the advisory, the ministry has relaxed the rules with respect to board meetings and has dispensed with the necessity of holding physical meetings on matters relating to approval of financial statements, board report, restructuring etc till June 30.

"We are also examining any other relaxations under the Companies Act, 2013, that may be necessitated on account of COVID-19," it noted.

The Corporate Affairs ministry is implementing the Companies Act as well as the LLP Act. In India, more than 190 people have been infected by Coronavirus and four people have died.

The government has aslo directed all central public sector undertakings to enforce work from home for half of their non-executive staff with immediate effect in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"These orders shall be applicable with immediate effect and will remain in force till April 4, 2020," the Department of Public Enterprises said in an office memorandum.

To avoid crowding in heir respective offices, plants, units, etc. all heads of CPSEs have been asked to draft a weekly roster keeping in view their work/production exigencies for the non- executive staff in such a manner that not more than 50 per cent of their non executive staff attend the office every day. "The remaining 50 per cent of the non-executive staff will work from home. Accordingly, the roster will be such that the non-executive staff will attend office on alternate weeks. While deciding the roster for the first week, it is advised to include officials who are residing in close proximity to their office or use their own transport to travel to the offices," said the Department, acting on the advice of the Department of Personnel and Training.

The Personnel Ministry on Thursday directed the heads of various government departments (HoDs) to ensure that 50 per cent of Group B and C employees are required to attend office every day and the remaining 50 per cent staff is instructed to work from home.

The memorandum issued on Thursday said the working hours for all employees who attend office on a particular day should also be staggered and the office timings may be divided into three groups or categories or as per the suitability of CPSEs and each sub group may be directed to attend the office accordingly.

The officials who are not required to attend office should be asked to work from home and be available on telephone and electronic means of communication at all times and should attend office, if called for any exigency of work, said the directive.

However, the instructions shall not apply to the offices, units and employees engaged in essential/emergency services and those directly engaged in taking measures to control the spread of coronavirus.

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