the government, standard operating procedures, special economic zones, wfh rules, it industry
ETtechThe government will soon release standard operating procedures (SOPs) that special economic zones (SEZs) must follow regarding new work from home (WFH) rules.
The SOPs, which will be issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, will factor in concerns raised by the $200-billion IT industry around onerous and rigid compliance requirements.
According to the IT industry, a clause in the existing WFH policy for companies operating in SEZs – which allows 50% or more employees in these zones to work from home, subject to prior clearance – is ‘impractical and burdensome’.
Under the clause, companies need to inform in advance which employees will be part of the group that will work from home.
Tech companies, faced with high attrition, say the clause will take away the flexibility they offer employees on WFH.
“We are working through Nasscom and the IT industry representation to just make it (WFH) a little bit more feasible versus what it is today,” Rohit Anand, chief financial officer of Tech Mahindra, told ET recently.
Nasscom is the leading IT industry association in the country.
Last month, the commerce ministry notified that 50% of the total employees at SEZ units, including contractual workers, are allowed to work from home. IT companies must, however, submit a list of employees who will work from home within 90 days, following which the approved employees will be allowed to WFH for up to a year.
According to the notification, an IT company or its unit should submit the WFH proposal containing terms and conditions to the development commissioner.
This should include the date from which the permission for WFH shall be utilized and the details of employees to be covered by such permission.
The development commissioner of the SEZ can allow more than 50% employees to work from home only for genuine reasons.
“In the last three years, around 50% of the people are new in every organization, especially, freshers. Most feedback in terms of pulse surveys that we have done show people don’t even want to come back to the office,” Anand said.
The government policy needs to incorporate a little bit of what employees want.
“Hence, that hybrid structure is also something that needs to be more or less enforceable and more flexible…,” he said.
The commerce ministry has evaluated the practical challenges that the industry has highlighted, Ashish Aggarwal, vice president and head of public policy at Nasscom, told ET.
“It (the ministry) will come with a standard operating procedure that can be used as reference points by development commissioners,” Aggarwal said. The guidelines are expected to be released in the next few days, he added.
IT companies said the notification imposes procedural and administrative compliances that are impractical and burdensome.
“It is not clear how companies will be able to submit details of employees who are expected to WFH as companies cannot have an inflexible plan in advance as to who will work remotely and who will come to office,” Nasscom said in a blog post earlier. “These decisions are usually taken based on team-specific requirements and suitability and are based on mutual understanding within teams.”
With development commissioners having the power to accept or deny the WFH model, the industry body said it was unclear what criteria would be applied to grant approvals and in what time frame such approvals could be expected.
“As it stands, the procedural aspects in the notification do not reflect an understanding of the WFH or remote working model in the industry,” the IT body said in the blog post.

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