As the deadly second wave of coronavirus unleashed mayhem in India, with COVID-19 fatalities mounting to over 4,000 per day, companies across various sectors stepped in to lend help and hope to their employees.
Ratan Tata, India's most trusted billionaire, established a set of standards for corporations to follow when Tata Steel, part of his multinational conglomerate, announced that the families of his employees, who die due to COVID-19, will continue to get a salary until the retirement age of the deceased.
Tata Steel rolled out a social security scheme for its employees on 23 May, as the country was battling the devastating second wave of the virus. Under the scheme, the nearest kin of an employee who dies of COVID, will get the last drawn salary until the age of 60, with housing and medical benefits.
Besides this, Tata Steel promised to bear all the expenses of their children's education up until graduation in India.
#TataSteel has taken the path of #AgilityWithCare by extending social security schemes to the family members of the employees affected by #COVID19. While we do our bit, we urge everyone to help others around them in any capacity possible to get through these tough times. pic.twitter.com/AK3TDHyf0H— Tata Steel (@TataSteelLtd) May 23, 2021
The announcement came at a time when the pandemic hit the country's economy hard and a large number of corporations dramatically cut salaries. In light of the crisis, insecurity among employees in the private sector has also peaked, with India reporting a loss of seven million jobs in the month of April alone and an unemployment rate rising to nearly 8 percent, the highest in the past four months.
Data released by the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, an economic think tank, indicated that the employment rate fell from 37.56 percent in March to 36.79 percent in April.
An increasing number of employees are wishing for more support and assistance from companies they work for.
"The nature of my job requires me to step out of the house and work, which makes me vulnerable to contracting the lethal virus. On top of this, I have been facing a 35 percent salary cut since last year, which the company has not restored until now. I wish my company too would come out with employee-friendly policies", said Rohit Saxena, a Delhi-based pharmaceutical executive.
With COVID-induced salary cuts taking a toll on the finances of employees, many other businesses and companies are following in Tata's footsteps. Reliance Industries Limited, led by India's wealthiest man, Mukesh Ambani, on 2 June announced several measures to help employees and their families severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reliance Industries said in a statement that the last drawn monthly salary will be given to the relatives of those employees who succumbed to COVID for the next five years. The company will also bear the educational expenses of the children of the deceased until they graduate from school, additionally covering medical expenses for spouses, parents, and children.
As the second wave peaked in April-May, overwhelming India's health infrastructure, several companies, like Dalmia Bharat Group, ITC Ltd, Paytm, and Lupin were among those that tracked the health of employees and assisted them by coordinating the availability of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, and oximeters.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) announced a spate of COVID-19 care services, including a medical hotline to reach doctors and TCS Cares services for counselling.
India's leading private sector bank, HDFC Bank, for its part, has since started providing e-consultation with doctors through apps. The bank converted three of its training centres in the cities of Gurugram, Bhubaneswar, and Pune into isolation centres for its COVID-affected employees. TCS also set up COVID care centres across 11 cities in India.
Big IT companies like TCS, HCL Tech, Tech Mahindra, and Infosys introduced COVID-19 test centres to help employees avoid visiting crowded government centres and possible exposure to the virus. Several companies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, Grofers, and Deloitte, have announced that they will cover the cost of vaccines for their employees and, in some cases, for their families as well.