Coronavirus impact: Mission critical IT-BPO staff can work from office

New Delhi: The government has issued an advisory to states to allow ‘mission critical’ employees associated with ‘essential services’ to operate from company offices. This is aimed at streamlining critical functions of IT-BPO companies, which include essential services such as healthcare and banking.

Government services such as tax administration, egovernance, cloud operation, passport services; healthcare and insurance-related processing; support to utilities such as gas, electricity, mobile network, broadband, etc and ecommerce services and support to banking and payment services have been identified as “essential services”.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) issued the advisory on Tuesday. It asked states to allow a reasonable time of three days for employees to transition to work from home.

Separately, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued an advisory to states saying instructions should reach the field level to permit employees maintaining and providing telecom services to continue work without interruption.

“Telecom infrastructure is critical for maintaining communication, use of broadband/internet services, encouraging ecommerce and facilitating work from home during the restrictions period,” it said.

“In view of the above, state governments are requested to take measures to ensure uninterrupted IT/ITeS services,” according to the notification.

In places where a lockdown has been announced, local authorities are forcing IT-BPO companies to completely shut down even though some may be supporting critical services such as banking and healthcare. This is leading to disruption of operations, especially for critical work that cannot be shut down.

Ashish Aggarwal, senior director of industry body Nasscom, said even after the government allowed work from home for IT-BPO firms, data centres and ecommerce companies are facing challenges in convincing local authorities on movement required to shift equipment to homes and to enable a small number of staff to commute for mission critical work.

“This clarification will help in addressing those concerns,” Aggarwal added.

Nasscom has been working with state governments including Karnataka, Maharashtra and Haryana to develop a mechanism where implementing the national rules is made easy at the local level. For instance, the union territory of Delhi has not yet included IT-BPO in the list of essential services even as ecommerce is featured.

Services such as maintenance and support of communication infrastructure such as cell network support, ISP equipment support, along with transportation-related logistics support including for essential aid, medicines supplied in a pandemic have also been identified as essential services.

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