COVID-19, the colossal outbreak is carrying the employer-employee relationship to an unchartered territory as employees are increasingly absent from work during the pandemic. Reacquainting employees into the workplace will require the employers to juggle multiple logistical, emotional, and legal concerns.
As COVID-19 will impact employment for the foreseeable future, it is anticipated that many employees will be reluctant to return, even after states have approved reopening plans. In spite of Central and State Governments passing and amending laws in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which laws may be applicable if an employee wishes to take leave during COVID-19? According to the laws of each state, employees are entitled to a certain number of days of leave per year in an establishment. But is it the only option available to employees who require leave for COVID-19 related reasons? Or is an employer authorized to use the accrued annual leave available for an employee?
Well, as described below, managing leave during COVID-19 depends on the circumstances of the request:
Scenario 1: Employee presumably or positively diagnosed with COVID-19.
The employee shall remain quarantined until they are cleared by a medical doctor to return to work.
In such circumstances an employer may take the following actions:
In some states like Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, employees tested positive are entitled to special paid sick leave during COVID-19, where companies are required to provide COVID-19 infected employees/workmen with mandatory sick leave of 28 days over and above their regular statutory leave entitlement. Employees can apply for leave during COVID-19, using an online leave management system provided by their company or inform the company through other mediums as given by the company policy.
Apart from the above benefit, an eligible employee may avail of the sickness benefit under the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948. The employees may email details of sickness information to the ESIC and intimate the employer on the diagnosis. The employer on receipt of the information from the employee on leave, must adhere to this and cannot forcibly ask an employee to avail leave or arbitrarily deduct the employees leave balance.
Scenario 2: Employee presumptively exposed to COVID-19 and is asymptomatic.
If an employee might have possibly been exposed to COVID-19, the employer may want them to get tested and not be present in office premises. Since the employee is ready for the duty and has no perceptible symptoms of the disease, the employer should try to continue paying their salary while the employee is off-premise. In this circumstance, an employer may take the following actions:
- Allow the employee to work remotely or work from home through the quarantine period, if applicable.
- Provide leave without loss of pay.
- Actions as listed in Scenario 1
Scenario 3: Employee needs to provide care for a dependent child residing in the house due to school closure on account of COVID-19.
The employer may allow employees to work remotely or work from home if possible. If not and in case there is no other suitable person available to care for the child, the employee has the option to utilize their accrued leave.
The employer, however, can not deduct an employee’s leave without the latter’s approval.
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Scenario 4: Employees who have neither tested positive nor are in quarantine, do not report to the office.
Employees in this scenario are not eligible for paid leave. In such circumstances, disciplinary action may be taken according to the company policy and when required, an employer may use available compensatory and annual leave. Once compensatory and annual leave has been exhausted, the employee may be under the loss of pay or leave without pay.
Does Indian Laws stand up to provide Paid Leave benefits to employees?
In countries like the USA, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was enacted which required certain employers to provide their workers with emergency paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from the effective date till December 31, 2020.
While in India at the initial stage of the Coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Labour and Employment had advised all employers that workers on leave should be deemed to be on duty without any deduction in wages for this period. But apart from Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, this advisory was not mandated by any other states and thus propelled the employer into the predicament of what must be done when an employee requires leave for COVID-19 related causes.
Taking the above-said scenarios into consideration, is the non-existence of stricter provisions of the law in India creating chaos amongst an employee and an employer?
Do you think India also should implement such laws to grant emergency paid leave benefits? Do you think apart from the regular leaves available for an employee, all the employers must think about the inclusion of special leave provisions in their Internal Policy exclusively for COVID-19 reasons?
Drop your thoughts in the comments below.
22 thoughts on “Leave Management – An Imperative Decision During COVID-19”
An useful piece of information well explained.
I think the employer needs to take appropriate actions which in the interest or organization and the employee. Hoping the government to come to any rescue is useless.
Scenarios wise applicability is very absolute n correct… Also if work from home is give there is no need to give special leave credits… There are chances even at work from home.. Employee may not be able to login n work so leave accordingly has to be deducted…
Further employee layoffs done for covid but govt should ensure help for reopening n company should ensure earlier existing employees are taken back
That’s really crude, spoils the employee-employer relations. In case the employer want to maintain smooth relationship, should never adapt to
Nicely captured the scenarios.
Yes, in my opinion, employers must think about the inclusion of special leave provisions in their Internal Policy, not exclusively for COVID-19 reasons but can be for any serious health conditions which arise out of an epidemic, pandemic or cancer, lung disease etc. I know of an organization wherein they have Special Leave Policy over and above the regular one. Each and every member out of their yearly leave credits have to contribute 1 day leave to the ‘Leave Bank’ which is managed by a Committee who has the right to approve / disapprove depending on the documents submitted and the seriousness of the illness. Leave up to three months is approved… this arrangement has worked out to be a savior to employees
An employee has availed leave for 5 days and has gone to his home town to drop his family. However he was compulsory quarantined for 14 days their as he was coming from Mumbai, Maharashtra. Which leaves to be considered for this 14 days extended leave. Should it be deducted from his annual leave or it will come under special leave. Please confirm.
Hello, Our team will get in touch with you for further discussion. thanks for writing to us.
Which type of leave is granted for Covid-19 infected Central government employee?
Is it Special Leave or Commuted leave…?
An employee is after all a human being be it a Government, Public Sector or Private Sector he/she should be given paid leave upto two weeks in case he or she is infected with Covid – 19. Also one more week in case any family member has facing the same. This leave is given under special circumstances in pandemic situation, hence it should be treated different from the normal leave available to the employee. Hence it should be treated as Special Leave.
Such circumstances comes once in long run.
I work in a private sector. I was tested positive and was advised home quarantine for 14 days. On the completion of quarantine, i reported to hospital at my workplace. Since i still had few medical issues, i was suggested few more tests and advised rest as i was not fit for joining back. Totally, i did not report to work for 20 days (including quarantine and rest). Now, they say that all these will be considered as leave without pay since this is my first year working here and am not eligible for medical/earned leave. Due to the medical condition, i was already burdened and now i have to face this financial crisis. Please advise.
Could you please clarify which state you are based out of?
Very clear and helpful article. Thanks.
what is the official policy for private employers for employees with LONG Covid where recovery can take 3-6 or even 9 months?
There is no official government directive on COVID cases that require extensive time for recuperation, the same may be dealt with internally and in accordance with organizational leave norms.
What will be the rule if spouse infected from covid 19 and hospitlized for treatment. Special leave eligible for employees or not as per govt order
If the employee is infected with Covid-19 and if he/she is an Insured Person as under ESIC then claim can be made to the ESI Corporation. There are no special leave provisions as per the State or Central Government. However Please do check with your company if the internal policy of the company allows you to take leave because of the reason mentioned.
Nice explanation dividing the problem and explaining them in a scenario-based answering. Came to know many things through your blog. Thank You
its sad, all the onus is on the employer who may have struggled and struggled to build a business a create jobs for people like us. Employees should be addressing the government directly for relief, but that requires guts, so let the employers be under this pressure. we need to remember, our employers did not invite this covid situation.
I am working in an NGO in New Delhi. I was tested positive in February 2022 and was advised home quarantine for 15 days. I am also suffering from heart disease. On the completion of quarantine, i reported to my workplace. I did not report to work for 15 days. Now, they say that all these leaves will be considered as Earned leave. They are not giving me Speacial Casual Leave. Please advise.
If the State of Delhi recognises the concept of Covid-19 special leave, then you should be entitled to the same.Employees can apply for leave during COVID-19, using an online leave management system provided by their company or inform the company through other mediums as given by the company policy.
If none of these approaches work, you may also contact the relevant Labour Department.