With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the businesses and resulting in job losses across sectors, an
advisory by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India has suggested that companies in
badly-hit sectors should be allowed to adjust workers' salary against their CSR obligations for two fiscal from 2021-22.
The 'Advisory On Business and Human Rights' also urged businesses to treat employee health
information as confidential and not discriminate against people of a particular nationality, ethnicity or other protected class, or those perceived to have contracted Covid-19.
The NHRC was of the view that governments and financiers can increasingly urge companies to use
its funds to support stakeholders and not shareholders in times of crisis and cited the European
Union Parliament's resolution, which insists that public financial support should be conditional on companies using funds to benefit workers.
The employers should not terminate any employee on the ground of him or her being a Covid-19
patient or suspected patient, while affected workers should be allowed to proceed on paid leave.
Employers should also ensure that all employees are provided with health insurance either directly
or through the Government and maintain a record.
They should also review how best to protect staff travelling on business, especially, if they are
travelling abroad, when tailored guidance and support may be appropriate. Further, it would need to
be considered whether measures are in place to deal with staff being quarantined or falling ill when
"For the FY beginning 2021-22, companies in the sector, which are badly hit on account of Covid-19, should be allowed to adjust the employees/workers' salary against their CSR Obligations.
With the aforesaid as the proposal, lay-off on account of Covid-19 shouldn't be the rationale provided by the company.
However, restructuring of the company in ordinary course shouldn't be impacted," it said.
While acknowledging that the rapid increase of person to-person and community transmissions,
followed by failed containment measures, are collectively slowing down the global economy into a
state of flux, raising unpredictability and consequently, market volatility. It also said that the
freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining should be respected, also as a basis for a joint employer-workers response to the crisis.
"As the scale of Covid-19's impact on people, economy and planet continues to emerge, the
relevance of the values and standards of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights
grows exponentially. Thorough human rights actions and due diligence are key to responsible
business conduct, both in the immediate and in the wake of the crisis," it said.
Highlighting the need for responsible practices to protect informal workers during the pandemic, the
advisory said unorganised sector employees are being forced to work without adequate precautions,
leaving them and their families and communities at risk of infection.
Businesses should also closely examine their supply chains to ensure labour trafficking is not
occurring as part of the creation and distribution of products.
"Widespread unemployment rates have many individuals taking greater risks to find work, which
increases their likelihood of being trafficked. Fewer employment opportunities also increase
survivors' vulnerability to being re-trafficked," the advisory said.
The businesses also should conduct a mapping exercise to identify who might be most impacted by
the crisis. "Get prepared to address potential discrimination (gender etc.) in the workplace," the
By Murtuza Merchant