The Centre has withdrawn its order directing companies and commercial units to pay full wages to workers even when they are not in operation during the COVID-19-induced nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25.
The lockdown, imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, entered its fourth phase on Monday.
The government’s move is expected to bring relief to a large number of industries and companies which were unable to pay full wages to their employees.
While issuing guidelines for the lockdown’s fourth phase, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla’s order on Sunday said, “Whereas, save as otherwise provided in the guidelines annexed to this order, all orders issued by National Executive Committee (NEC) under Section 10(2)(1) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, shall cease to have effect from 18.05.2020”.
The Sunday’s guidelines mentioned six sets of standard operating protocols, mostly related to the movement of people, which will continue to remain in force.
But it does not include the March 29 order issued by the Union home secretary that directed all employers to pay wages to workers on due date without any deduction even if the commercial unit was closed during the lockdown period.
The March 29 order had said: “All employers, be it in the industry or in shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages of their workers, at their workplaces, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.”
Bhalla, while issuing fourth phase’s guidelines, had said he, as chairperson of the NEC under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, “has issued orders on lockdown measures on March 24, March 29, April 14, April 15 and May 1 specifying various issues related to the implementation of the lockdown and the exemptions given to various people and services from the curbs”.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court on May 15 had asked the central government not to take any coercive action for a week against companies and employers who are unable to pay full wages to their employees during the nationwide lockdown.
There may be small companies that are not earning and therefore unable to pay, the top court had observed.