Cognizant's net profit declined 29 percent to $361 million in the June quarter due to COVID-19 pandemic (Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Anirudh, a techie, quit his job in March to join Cognizant mid- April. However, his joining date has been pushed to July at the back of COVID-19, with the possibility of it extending further.
“I confirmed with them multiple before quitting my previous job and every time they assured that things would go scheduled despite COVID-19,” said a frustrated Anirudh.
He is desperate for he is now the single earning member after his father’s sudden death in April. He has dipped into his savings and had to borrow from friends for expenses in May.
“I don’t know what I will do for another two months,” he said.
This mirrors the story of more than 100 laterals who were recruited by Cognizant and have their starting date deferred due to COVID-19.
Financial burdens, uncertainty on when they will be able to join and a lack of job opportunities in the industry has left them in a limbo.
According Forum for IT Employees (FITE), there could be thousands of employees impacted across companies. FITE is also planning take up the issue of lateral hires with the labour commissioner in Pune, said Pavanjit Mane, President, FITE Maharashtra.
Uncertainty is killing
Take Sadhana, a software test engineer, for instance. She quit her previous job in February after she had got an offer from Cognizant. Her joining date has been deferred three times already. Sadhana’s recent date of joining is June.
The recent mail, which Moneycontrol has viewed, read, “Given the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are deferring the on-boarding the process of number of new hires…. We will keep you updated on any changes we get closer.”
“After my joining date on May 13 was deferred, I got a mail from HR asking me to accept the new joining date in June within seven days failing which the offer would be revoked,” she said.
“So this effectively means that I might get a mail again in June and say it has been deferred,” she added.
“Instead of making us confused, why can’t the company give a concrete answer,” asked a worried Sadhana.
After the virus outbreak, most of IT companies have stopped hiring baring for a few essential roles. During the Q4 results, IT majors such as TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL Tech said that they would not be hiring laterals for the rest of the year though offers already given would be honoured.
With demand volumes dropping and clients’ cutting down their discretionary spend, IT firms expect businesses to take a hit in the June quarter.
While the whole industry is suffering, in case of Cognizant, the company suffered an additional $50-70 million loss due to recent ransomware attack. It expects this to impact the company’s second quarter results. Earlier, the company said it would defer on-boarding of freshers till September and freeze lateral hiring.
This has created a sense of insecurity among them as their joining dates are postponed. Some of them have started looking for new jobs.
“But it is difficult,” pointed out Vikram who is waiting for his date of joining in the company.
No one is hiring
Vikram, who has enrolled in one of the job search sites, said there are fewer jobs available compared to February and employers are a lot more cautious. Even if he was able to land some of the interviews, companies are wary. Vikram had quit his company in late March and was supposed to join in April.
“They want to know why we are without jobs for so long. Given the circumstances, they think we were laid off due to under performance,” Vikram said and added that these are affecting the prospects of getting new jobs as well.
Beyond all this, comes the financial burden such as loans and medical expenses, which most of them are struggling to pay. Employees and their families do not have medical insurance since companies offer insurance cover them. In the middle of health crisis and elderly at home, it becomes an additional burden on their pockets.
More firms to defer lateral on-boarding
Apart from Cognizant, Infosys too has deferred joining dates of lateral hires. According to hiring executives, more firms will defer the offers for laterals as well given the uncertainty COVID-19 presents.
In an emailed response, a Cognizant spokesperson said, “As stated on our latest earnings call last week, we remain committed to honoring all outstanding accepted offers. We are having to defer the onboarding process for some of our new hires because of the current challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Infosys did not respond the mail. However, in a tweet, Infosys responded to worried laterals.
In a tweet, the company said, “We are trying to accelerate remote onboarding for all experienced candidates who have been made an offer. We aim to complete onboarding for this quarter between now and July. You will shortly hear from us about your specific date of joining.”
[Names changed for the sake of anonymity]Note: The story has been updated with comments from Cognizant and updates from Forum for IT Employees