Covid relief: India Inc shows it cares, puts employees’ wellbeing before profits

Amid the second wave, companies open their hearts & purse strings in show of empathy for their wor

MUMBAI: As the second wave of Covid2019 batters the Indian subcontinent, there is little doubt that we are staring at a humanitarian disaster of humongous proportions. Even as the country struggles to cope with what is possibly a deadly new variant of the Coronavirus, organisations are going out of their way to show solidarity with their workforce.

Recently, Reliance Industries announced that it has decided to give employees their entire bonus for 2020-21, acknowledging their commitment to the company in a challenging year. It also launched an inoculation drive for all its employees, their family members, and stakeholders from Friday.

Earlier, FMCG major HUL announced it will cover for the vaccination of around three lakh people, which include not only its employees and their families but also those in its extended ecosystem.

Across India, as cases surge and precious lives are being snuffed out, companies are pressing the pause button on chasing quarterly targets and are instead going the extra mile to help afflicted employees and their loved ones.

Showing empathy  through enhanced employee benefits

Many companies have become generous with employee benefits and leaves, granting special wellness leaves, vaccination leaves, and reduced work-day weeks for their employees, along with providing staff access to mental and health care services.

Online food delivery platform Swiggy has rolled out a four-day work week for employees for the month of May, keeping in mind the mental and physical well-being of its employees. Workers have also been given the flexibility to choose the four days they want to work in a week.

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.

According to Human capital solutions and services provider GI Group India VP & head HR Upasana Raina, “The mental well-being of everyone in the organisation is key to each person’s individual success that finally ties up into the success of the collective.” She added that apart from ensuring that 100 per cent of their workforce has WFH facility, the agency also “encourages employees to take time for themselves to strike a healthy balance between work and family.”  

Personal finance app Branch has also implemented the “unlimited paid time off for dealing with the physical and emotional trauma”. Branch India MD Sucheta Mahapatra says, “With the second wave, we understand that most employees are physically and mentally affected either personally or in their social circles. The health coverage will now cover Covid Related hospitalisation. We have internally formed a Covid employee taskforce to evaluate and work on various work streams to support employees during these times.” 

Telecom and IoT services provider Teliolabs CEO Amit Singh says, “We have formed a Covid response team with a doctor, finance, HR and system admin teams to ensure proper help to the team members in case of any Covid related query, hospital admissions etc. We are also extending our medical insurance and term insurance policies for better coverage in these difficult times.” This is in addition to giving paid leave to employees falling sick owing to Covid.

Insurance tech provider SE2 Digital Service LLP head HR Sumit Bhatia shares some of the initiatives the company has put in place to ensure their employees are safe and reassured during the pandemic situation: “Reimbursement of RTPCR tests and vaccination costs, health insurance that includes Covid related hospitalisation, 24x7 free doctor access, stress management (EAP) support, 14 days of special Covid leaves in case any associate is detected positive, and in the unfortunate scenario of an associate’s demise due to Covid – monetary coverage for family (beyond Term Life Insurance)- SE2 will pay the associates’ full one-year salary (including 100 per cent of the variable pay) or Rs 10 lakh (whichever is higher) to the family.”

AI-driven online automobile marketplace Droom has announced a Rs 1 crore budget to combat Covid for its employees and dealers’ community. It has launched programs for its 20,500+ dealers to assist in pharmaceuticals, vaccination, medical assistance and provide isolation wards with basic medical facilities. It has also increased its medical insurance coverage by five times this year, providing medical coverage group insurance for employees’ parents, and has even launched a telemedicine consultation for mental and physical health free of cost.

Converting office spaces into Covid isolation & vaccination centres

Besides providing benefits, some companies have taken a step further and converted office spaces into isolation centres and hospitals for employees and their kin.

HDFC Bank 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. The facilities include setting up vaccination camps. 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.

Droom has also converted its Sector 15 office into an emergency response center with telemedicine services, nurses, and all basic healthcare facilities.

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 country’s healthcare system is getting overburdened.

Bry-Air, DRI and Artemis have organised vaccination camps for their employees, while Fortis recently arranged drive-thrus for Panasonic, Jindal Steel, Coforge, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters.

IT majors like TCS, HCL Tech, Tech Mahindra, Infosys have introduced Covid201919 test centres to help their staff avoid exposure by visiting crowded test centres and waiting in long queues.

Assuring monetary aid

Companies are also taking measures to ensure the long-term financial stability of their staff and their families. Zomato announced that it would provide 100 per cent of the deceased employee’s income for two years to the family. Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the company will continue to pay salaries to the families of deceased employees throughout the current financial year

Cars24 CEO Vikram Chopra recently won a lot of love on social networking site LinkedIn for an internal mail he sent out to all his employees urging them to buy whatever it was that they needed for the treatment of themselves or a family member, without worrying about its price.

He wrote, “Need oxygen or medicines but only available in black at a very high price and without any proof? Please just buy whatever you need, from whatever source you get it. Don’t worry about a proof to be produced to the company or how it costs,” adding “Send us an email and we will transfer money asap.” He further wrote that the company will also try to arrange medicines, or oxygen and whatever else is required, while stressing that “We will pay you advance or reimburse all costs, whichever is faster. I repeat, no proofs required.”

Setting up Covid helpline & resource access  

Software giant, TCS has set up a Covid help desk for employees 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.

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.  

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