Extend work-from-home facility for young mothers: IT forum to Centre

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As new COVID-19 positive cases continue to mount in Pune, the Forum for IT Employees (F.I.T.E) has appealed to authorities to extend the work-from-home (WFH) facility for young mothers in the IT sector.

In a letter sent recently to Union Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, representatives of the F.I.T.E. have urged the Centre to come up with guidelines so as to give relief to a huge IT workforce comprising young, working mothers, among others.

A number of IT firms in Pune have begun summoning their employees to work following relaxation of lockdown rules, which permit firms to function with 33% of their employee capacity, said Pavanjit Mane, State representative, F.I.T.E.

“Thus far, the WFH model has worked fine with minimum impact on the company’s business. Given that this sector has 30%-40% female employees of whom many are in the 22-38 age group, there is a significant risk for professionals, especially young mothers, as fresh COVID-19 cases are rising in the city’s ‘non-containment’ zones as well,” he said.

Padmaja Pawar, F.I.T.E.’s Maharashtra coordinator, said there will be restricted access to crèche facilities and day-care centres even if the lockdown is considerably eased after June 1.

“Furthermore, maids may not be allowed in residential societies in the post-lockdown scenario. So, these young mothers will face additional problems of managing their children besides shouldering work responsibilities,” Ms. Pawar said.

Mr. Mane said extension of the WFH model is not only the best physical distancing option to check the spread of the contagion in Pune’s sprawling IT parks, but will also help the district administration reduce the burden of screening possible COVID-19 cases.

“Despite humanitarian gestures by big IT firms, the ground reality is different as employees often come under pressure to appear physically at workplaces. As the lockdown gradually eases, IT firms are intent on proving to clients that they are back on track and as a result, managers eagerly summon employees who travel at great risk to physical locations,” he said. Mr. Mane further said while a response from the Union ministry on extension of the WFH model is awaited, the forum has planned to approach the Pune district administration in this regard.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mumbai-based lawyer Aliff Fazelbhoy, senior partner, ALMT Legal, said IT companies need to gear up for more WFH facilities by securing for their employees the necessary equipment and internet connections. “IT is one industry where the WFH model should not be much of a problem for a majority of the employees once the infrastructure is set up.”

“The major issues faced by IT companies are adhering to WFH guidelines, terminations, and pay cuts. On the WFH front, much of the development and maintenance work requires high speed internet, which many employees do not have. On the terminations, pay cuts and other issues, many companies do not have enough work to keep everyone occupied,” Mr. Fazelbhoy said.

As COVID-19 has turned out to be a force majeure event, he said, there is a fine line to be walked by IT firms between ensuring that employees are not subjected to more than absolutely necessary hardship, while at the same time keeping their businesses afloat.

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