The global pandemic COVID-19 has created a gap in the economy worldwide. Many fear that this could be an advent of a recession where job losses, pay cuts and postponement of joining dates will take down the industry and businesses at large. In worst case scenario revoking of job offers could also well be a possibility. Sources at the condition of anonymity have confirmed that many organisations have started exploring the possibilities of restructuring the existing manpower, reducing the pay and increasing hours of work. Other perks and incentives and facilities have been deferred also. HR professionals have been given the task of working on such modalities and they in turn are in touch with their legal experts to find out ways to achieve the objectives.
Recent CMIE report also indicates that unemployment rate has reached as high as 23% during the fortnight ending March 2020. The employment rate fell to an all-time low of 38.2 per cent in March 2020. The fall since January 2020 is particularly steep – almost spectacular. It seems to have nosedived in March after having struggled to remain stable over the past two years. Then, there is a precipitous fall.
The labour participation rate in March 2020 was 41.9 per cent. It was 42.6 per cent in February and 42.7 per cent in March 2019.
Though most organizations have taken up work from home policies (WFH), the clouds of uncertainty loom large over both established and small-scale organizations. Everyone’s unsure of the scenario when this threat from this pandemic will be over, which currently seems a distant dream.
Delays turning into denials could very well be a possibility with the kind of doubtful environment we are working in, at the moment. The work from home culture which is known to give employees a first-hand advantage of work-life balance seems to have lost its ground. According to experts, the concept of work to home is practically workable to a very limited sphere of businesses and it all depends on the nature of work. While this concept may be applicable to IT/ITES sector, manufacturing sector has no scope for it. Moreover managing virtual teams and keeping them engaged is another a big challenges for the organisations.
With the kind of heat organizations are facing, employees are bearing the stress now and the timelines separating work and personal life have gone blurred. It doesn’t end there with many employees reporting putting in not only the extra hours but pitching in for the scope of work beyond their KRAs. Still, they are worried about what future hold for them.
Speaking to the BM Kumar Gautam, an IT engineer with an MNC in Bangalore said, “I am neck-down in work, I have forgotten any time schedules that might have existed when we were working from office. I am on call coordinating with various departments and teams almost round-the clock and then there are management meets too.”
Sharing a more apprehensive outlook, Rishika Yadav, working as a sales lead with an e-commerce firm stated, “Being part of a profession which gets business I am having sleepless nights these days, as it is difficult to meet the targets in the current situation. I am even pitching in various roles, even those which are remotely linked to my profile to stay productive and valuable to the organization, in case I am unable to attain my numbers. Fear of job loss is always on my mind. I have a house to run and other personal responsibilities.”
Organizations do understand the plight, but at the moment they can do little about it. Still, the HR functionaries are trying their best to let employees feel safe, secure and recognized by crafting various engagement programs and wellness initiatives that are virtually conducted.
Many companies have even gone a step ahead and assured their employees of an uninterrupted pay cycle. To reassure some have even paid out advance salaries to their employees – be it full-time, part-time, consultants, freelancers or management trainees.
With respect to campus placements also, many companies are ready to honour the offers they have made before this health crisis began but are seeking some time. JK Cement has honoured the job offers and has not delayed the joining. They have innovatively completed joining of all such people on line and taken them on board even during the lockdown period.
PM Modi had earlier urged all private sector companies to honour payment commitment to employees and most are following the suit, But how long it would be practically possible for the private sector employers to pay salaries to their employees when the complete economic wheel is on halt and their cashbooks are started drying up with no money coming in is a big question in coming days.
Big or small, every organization is concerned about the safety of their employees, at the moment. News reports claim that organizations like Schneider Electric has committed that no contract employee will be let go of due to project delays, NTT-Netmagic has assured its employees of no job losses or pay cuts and steel industry giant Tata Steel has also conveyed no salary cuts or disruptions in staff salaries because of the pandemic and resultant lockdown.
While other news reports do claim that over 50% of the business leaders foresee job losses post the COVID-19 pandemic, small steps taken by many organizations and gestures being extended by them to their employees is keeping the hope alive in these challenging times but still fear of job losses looms large among employees.