Coronavirus: Is vaccine found for India Inc?

The impact of coronavirus or COVID-19 on domestic and international businesses is severe, across countries and sectors. To assist India Inc., to run their business safely, I am highlighting here two key legal issues that companies must consider, before getting into operation.

Workplace Issues
As an employer you are fully responsible for the safety and security of your workers and thus in this challenging time to avoid any legal trouble in future, I suggest the followings: -

1) Must adhere to all the guidelines issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, your respective state and World Health Organization
2) Inform employees in very clear terms about steps, including measures to be taken and strictly following physical distancing and hygiene guidelines.
3) Be responsive and be in direct touch with your workforce. Educate them and keep them up to-date with factual and accurate information from reliable sources. Make provision of specific equipment such as hand sanitisers and face masks, if the risk becomes real.

Travel –
First of all, before getting into travel mode, you must ensure that it is as per government guidelines and doesn’t fall into the category to banned countries.

Second, the best is to avoid it. But, if it can’t be avoided then employers should review how best to protect staff travelling on business, especially if they are travelling abroad.

Leave entitlement - There is no legal requirement under Indian law to grant leave for COVID-19 patients in excess of what is statutorily mandated or contractually agreed upon. Given the communicable nature of the disease, it may be advisable for the employers to allow affected employees to proceed on paid leave.

Termination - It is advisable that the employers do not terminate any employee on the ground of he/she being a COVID-19 patient or suspected patient.

Work from home - The employer may, in principle, allow an employee to work from home. The employer may audit available IT hardware and software, and close any gaps if required to ensure that the IT system is robust and functional during such remote access. It needs to be determined if there are any data security issues to consider and how best to address them.
Entry into workplace - An employer has a legal right and an obligation to prevent an employee who is suffering from communicable diseases like COVID-19 from entering the workplace for the protection of other employees.

Respect Employee Privacy and Avoid Discrimination - Employers should treat employee health information as confidential and should ensure that their policies apply to all employees equally and not single out those of a particular nationality, ethnicity or other protected class, or those perceived to have contracted COVID-19.

A failure to ensure all the above will definitely lead to hefty legal claims, besides adversely impacting the morale of the staff and employer and employees’ relations.

Check Your Insurance
Every company impacted by the COVID19 outbreak would need to consider if adverse financial consequences of business interruption resulting from COVID-19 can be claimed under the insurance policy. Companies should review their existing business interruption insurance policies to protect themselves against any losses sustained from exposure to the epidemic.

Supreme Law Partners International, Delhi and Dubai, have developed a comprehensive Covid-19, kit for business, if you are interested in complete protection of your business do contact us.

We are also available through Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter, do reach out to us.

The writer is Partner, Supreme Law International, Delhi and Dubai. The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available in this article is for general informational purposes only.

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