Published 20 January, 2023

How leave policies changed owing to Covid (7Mins)

The Covid-19 pandemic had a huge impact on the working of the corporate world, particularly on the way the IT sector companies have helped the employees under these tough circumstances. During the pandemic and post the pandemic, the most important aspect was getting across the right information to the employees regarding their compensation and their leaves and what would happen to their working days and the leaves if they fall sick during the work from home process. These circumstances have posed challenges to not only the IT sector but across all types of sectors,  as to how the majority of the people will be working from home because it’s a huge transition from the usual pattern of working from office. It is extremely important for every company to ensure that the employees feel they are being supported and are being taken care of by their employers. The employers and the leaders need to provide guidance as well as better leave policies which would be inclusive of the employee’s needs.

For example, one of the top companies which really eased this transition and helped their employees is TCS, as they brought out a number of policies and guidelines, primarily designed to make the working conditions of the employees better. These policies have been designed in such a way to ensure that the employees would understand the work from home conditions and what is actually required of them under these circumstances along with providing them the practical tips and suggestions on how to make it work for both the employees and employers.

It has been noticed that during the entire duration of the pandemic and post that the Technology companies especially have shown more empathy towards their employees. It has been noticed that the sick leave post the pandemic is still going on if somebody is affected by Covid even today. Moreover, the companies have also expanded their paid parental or family leave benefits, through which the parents would get paid leaves for taking care of their families. This was emphasized upon even after the pandemic to provide greater support to the employees, who have been finding it difficult to juggle both the family as well as the office work from their homes.

Another company which proved to be really supportive towards their employees was Microsoft, which offered an additional paid leave of more than 12 weeks while Google offered an additional 14 weeks paid leave during the pandemic. These policies were brought out to support the employees during these unprecedented times to show the ethics and the values of the company and how they provided support to the employees during such tough times.

Google has been one of the most helpful employers during these times, as according to their new policies Google employees can go on leave without having any deduction from their standard paid leave allowance. Further, Google has also set up a fund which will enable all the contract and temporary workers globally to take paid sick leave if they need due to the potential coronavirus symptoms or quarantines, this is one of the most important aspects for working from home because many of the employees might still be tested positive due to covid. But, even after bringing these policies there are still some issues, as Google relies on more than 120,000 temp employees and contractors on top of its own more than 100,000 full time employees, and not all of them have the benefit of paid sick leave currently. Google's post indicate that this fund would cover the expenses for those are not able to take sick leave under their current employment arrangements.

PAID SICK LEAVES: Paid sick leave is an important policy for protecting the workers and their communities during and post the pandemic, serving not only to preserve their jobs and incomes but also to contain the spread of the virus. Such policies are put in place in order to sustain the workers during the subsequent waves of infection and broadened to include the workers who were denied coverage.

Paid sick leaves can only be effective as a broader policy instrument if it is freely available to the large parts of the workforce. Although countries have expanded access to the paid sick leaves in case of COVID-19 or quarantine, however important coverage gaps still remain:

Employees in non-standard dependent employment, such as casual and zero hour contract workers, remain mostly excluded from sick pay. For example, the casual workers are not entitled to paid leave while workers on zero hour contracts only receive sick pay for those hours for which they are called upon.

Self-employed workers still tend to be excluded in the countries where sickness benefit enrolment is voluntary and insurance coverage is very low, such as in the Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland. Self-employed workers can’t access sickness benefits in Italy too. Gig workers and freelancers in dependent self-employment are in most cases not entitled for paid sick leave. Although, they can now temporarily access the sickness benefits in few countries.

Companies belonging to particularly the tech sector have also employed to take their leaves during the pandemic in order to avoid a flooding of the leave encashment at the end of the year which would lead to heavy cash outflow. As per Deloitte, most of the actions taken by companies were in order to reduce the liabilities arising out of the leaves. However, during the pandemic and keeping in mind the work from home, it has been observed that the number of leaves taken by the employees have gone down by a huge number.

So, the companies have devised new ways to get the staff to stay off work. Some have reduced the number of leaves carried forward to the next year to 10.This works as another step to ensure that the employees utilize their leaves in the current year. Reduction of the permissible accumulation of leaves is also done to bring down the overall leave encashment-liability of the company, as observed in KPMG.

Tech Mahindra is also one of such tech companies, which is committed towards the fight against COVID-19, as they created a special leave policy which is over and above the existing leave entitlement for employees who may test positive.

CONCLUSION: It has been observed that most of the companies have brought in some very positive changes for the employees with regard to their leave policies, especially the big tech firms like Microsoft, Google and Apple. However, still in regard to the parental leaves and sick paid leaves during work from home, these policies need to be changed further and something bigger needs to be 

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