STRICTER REGULATIONS IMPOSED AS SITUATION WORSENS
In furtherance of our previous updates (5 March 2020, 12 March 2020, 13 March 2020 and 16 March 2020), we set out below further regulatory updates in respect of COVID-19 outbreak.
Important Central and state regulations / guidelines
Ø Exemption to e-commerce operations from prohibitory orders under Section 144
By way of a notification dated 20 March 2020, the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, has advised state governments and local administration to ensure that e-commerce operations (warehousing and logistics facilities and services), wholesalers, their vendors and third party delivery partners who are part of the supply and logistics chain are not subject to prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. This is necessary to ensure that there is no disruption or panic as regards supply of goods and services to citizens.
§ Closure of shops and offices: On 20 March 2020, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced closure of all shops and offices in Mumbai, Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad from the midnight of 20 March 2020 till 31 March 2020. This closure will, however, not impact essential services. The Chief Minister has also urged employers to not deduct salaries of employees during such closure period.
Pursuant to the announcement, the Municipal Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, issued an order dated 20 March 2020 directing all private companies / establishments to be completely shut down, except if they are engaged in the following essential services:
a) providing drinking water;
b) sewerage services;
c) banking services and RBI;
d) telephone and internet services;
e) rail and transportation services;
f) providing food, vegetables and groceries;
g) hospitals, medical centers and medical stores;
h) electricity, petroleum, oil and energy;
j) port; and
k) IT services provided to any of the essential services.
t must be noted that any production / manufacturing processes which require continuity or process may continue to function at 50 % of staff strength.
§ Advice against termination / reduction in salary: By way of a notification dated 20 March 2020, the Commissioner of Labour, Government of Maharashtra, has advised that all employers of public / private establishments should extend cooperation by not terminating the services of their employees or reducing their wages due to COVID-19 outbreak. Further, if the office of an establishment is non-operational as a result of the outbreak, the employees should be deemed to be on duty.
§ Work from home: In its notification dated 19 March 2020, the Delhi Government advised that all private sector offices (including multinational companies, information technology establishments, corporate offices etc.) situated in the National Capital Region of Delhi should allow their employees to work from home till 31 March 2020.
§ Closure of malls and restaurants: On 20 March 2020, the Delhi Government announced closure of all malls (except grocery, pharmacy and vegetable shops in them) until further orders and closure of restaurants till 31 March 2020. This will, however, not impact food delivery.
§ Work from home: By way of an order dated 17 March 2020, the District Magistrate advised that all multinational companies, industries, BPOs and corporate offices situated in Gurugram should allow their employees / officers to work from home till 31 March 2020.
§ Guidelines to factories / establishments: On 17 March 2020, the Haryana Government issued guidelines to be followed in factories / establishments in the backdrop of COVID-19 which includes the following:
a) workers should be encouraged to stay at home if they are sick;
b) employers should adopt flexible policies that would set out flexible work hours and modes of working;
c) employers should not insist on production of medical certificate for employees having acute respiratory illness, given that medical facilities in the current situation are limited and medical practitioners busy;
d) if possible, employers should conduct thermal screening of all employees / visitors through infrared thermometer prior to allowing their entry into the premises.
§ Guidelines to factories: The Department of Factories, Boilers, Industrial Safety and Health, Karnataka, released a circular dated 14 March 2020 mandating certain guideline to be followed by factories to prevent the risk of contagion. These guidelines are similar to the ones released by the Haryana Government as discussed above.
§ Registration of tourist in Odisha: On 16 March 2020, the Odisha Government issued an order requiring the foreign travelers to register their names on return to the state of Odisha till 15 April 2020.
§ Banned entry of tourists: On 20 March 2020, the Uttarakhand Government announced that entry of domestic and foreign tourists into the state will be banned.
Travel restrictions (issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare dated 19 March 2020)
Ø No commercial flight: No scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft will be allowed to land in India after 5:30 am (IST) of 22 March 2020 till 29 March 2020.
Ø Maximum travel time: A maximum travel time of 20 hours is permissible for such commercial passenger aircraft to land in India.
Ø No incoming passengers: No incoming scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall be allowed to disembark its passengers on Indian soil (foreigner or Indian) after 01:31 am (IST) of March 23 2020.
Janta curfew (announcement by the Prime Minister on 19 March 2020)
Ø On 22 March 2020, self-imposed janta curfew to be followed. Prime Minister has requested the public to not step out of the house from 7 am to 9pm.
Given that the regulatory developments in the context of COVID-19 are rapid and ongoing, employers should monitor the same on a continuous basis. The endeavor should be to adopt a sensitive approach while dealing with the concerns of the employees.
This update has been authored by Anshul Prakash (Partner), Prachi Vijay (Associate) and Deeksha Malik (Associate). For any legal assistance pertaining to workplace management in the context of COVID-19 outbreak, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.