The second wave of COVID-19 has caught the country by shock. Till about a month ago, it appeared the pandemic was headed towards a closure, however, April took away any such hope, rendering employees helpless as they continue to battle taking care of themselves and their families, while coping with work parallely.
In this time of need, several employers have stepped up to express solidarity and support as employees face loss and fight for basic resources at an unprecedented pace. While personal networks remain a key crowdsourcing element for resources, companies have come up with a slew of initiatives to be there for their employees and their families.
If you are wondering how you might be able to offer support as an employer, here’s a look at how India Inc. is stepping up to shoulder the challenges that the pandemic has unleashed on their workforce.
Conjuring up sick leave policies for employees and affected next of kin
The rising state of COVID-19 delirium has compelled many organizations to take effective measures to safeguard their employees’s well-being. One of the foremost actions taken was to provide special leaves for those who have already contracted the virus. Companies like Tata Steel, Google, Amazon, Schneider Electric, Deloitte and more have provided their employees with 14 special sick leaves for them to recuperate and recover.
Some companies like ITC, Optum and Phillips have provided their employees with unlimited leave policies. These companies have allowed the affected ones to rest with a clear cut mandate of not to resume work until they recover.
Companies like Capgemini have provided 7 day leave policy for the COVID-19 affected workers while Canara Bank HSBC have continued with their usual leave regularization process for the employees.
Medical Helpline and resource access for COVID-19 care
Despite a flood of queries rushing through the minds of employees and their families, the fear of contracting COVID-19 by in-person consultations with healthcare professionals has kept individuals from visiting hospitals and clinics. While online health consultation had been steadily gaining acceptance pre-COVID-19, corporates have rushed to put in place a COVID-19 helpline to enable employees with direct access to doctors, as well as vendors that help arrange for medicines, medical equipment, home nursing care.
Beyond COVID-19 related queries, companies have also provided helpline access for emotional support as the overwhelming circumstances take a beating on the emotional stability of employees and their loved ones. As much as the focus on mental health increased, the acknowledgement from employers through such services became key to ensure access to resources, especially as the recent weeks have made resources scarce.
TCS is one such organization that has setup a COVID-19 help desk to seek any assistance required, along with a 24x7 TCS Medical Hotline to reach doctors and TCS Cares services for counselling. HDFC Bank too is providing e-consultation with doctors through apps including Apollo 24/7, MediBuddy, PharmEasy Apps, with PharmEasy helping with delivery of medicines as well. Additionally, the bank has also provided access to e-consultation with empanelled psychologists through these Apps.
Converting office spaces into COVID-19 isolation centres
Besides providing employees with support helplines, some companies have taken a step further and converted office spaces into isolation centres and hospitals for employees and their kin. One of them is HDFC Bank. The lender has converted three of its training centres in Gurugram, Bhubaneswar and Pune into isolation facilities for its Covid-affected employees. These facilities have been equipped with first-line assistance and will have round the clock nurses and visiting doctors. Immediate medical help from a nearby hospital will be made available if required.
The facilities include working with the local administration and setting up vaccination camps. The bank has also tied up with multiple hospitals across the country to provide vaccination at hospitals like Apollo, Manipal, Shalby, Miot and Billroth among others. In addition, it has also tied up with many hotels across the country to provide isolation facilities, basic amenities and basic medical checks.
Similarly, TCS has set up Covid Care Centers across 11 cities in India and entered into arrangements with hotels that have hospital tie-ups. Employees and their families can avail emergency medical financial assistance, apart from the health insurance facilities offered. In fact, many IT firms are setting up hospital beds in their campuses with oxygen and ventilator support to support employees and their families to deal with the acute shortage the country is facing.
Further, Amazon, ITC, Capgemini, RPG Group, and Cognizant have also set up Covid-care centres either on their own, or through tie-ups with hotels or hospitals at this critical time when the healthcare system is getting overburdened.
Testing camps and vaccinations camps
The country currently is highly under-pressure with the overburdening of healthcare infrastructures and test labs. India is experiencing more than 4 lakh cases each day. Amid this it becomes very difficult to find oneself a testing centre or get oneself vaccinated. In view of this current surge in cases, many organizations have stepped out and introduced testing camps/drive-thru and vaccination camps for their employees.
IT majors like TCS, HCL Tech, Tech Mahindra, Infosys have introduced COVID-19 test centres which will help their employees skip the general exposure by visiting crowded test centres and wait in long queues. Bry-Air and DRI have also set up vaccination camps for employees and workers wherein they have partnered with Medanta Hospital. Recently, Artemis had also set up camps at the Apollo Tyres office. Fortis had also recently arranged drive-thrus for Panasonic, Jindal Steel, Coforge, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters. Several companies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, Grofers, Cars24, Deloitte have announced that they will sponsor the cost of vaccines for their employees and some for their families as well.
Financial aid has been a critical issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. This virulent wave has rendered a number of families helpless and a number of companies are taking steps to protect employees – right from increasing the insurance cover for hospitalization and COVID-19 related expenses, providing financial assistance to employee’s families strained by the pandemic and covering the cost of vaccination.
Companies like Amazon are providing advance salaries for employees who need it. Microsoft announced that they will cover expenses of their employees and dependents in case there is hospital admission for COVID-19 up to 10 days. Apart from increasing the insurance cover by 2.5 lakhs.
Companies are also taking measures to ensure the long-term financial stability of the employees and their families. Borosil Ltd and Borosil Renewables announced that the family members of employees losing life due to COVID-19 will receive salaries for the next two years, in addition to other benefits. The company also announced that the education of the children of such employees will be borne by the company until graduation level in India.
Similar announcements were made by Paytm and Zomato. Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the company will continue to pay salaries to the families of deceased employees throughout the current financial year. Zomato announced that it would provide 100% of the deceased employee’s income for two years to the family.
L'Oréal India has offered a one-time COVID-19 insurance for those who test positive and has extended this to its field ecosystem of distributors and sales representatives. The company also offered 3 years’ salary as insurance cover in case of the demise of an employee, not limited to Covid-related deaths, a spokesperson said.
Many companies including Flipkart, Infosys, Accenture, Capgemini, Reliance Industries, TVS Motor Company, Mindtree have committed to covering vaccine costs for their employees and their family members.
As India goes through a critical phase of COVID-19 infections, all such efforts by corporates are a welcome step to alleviate the lives of their employees and also take off some stress of the overburdened healthcare system. The need of the hour is for all institutions to come together and fight this crisis together.