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Explained: Lost your job during COVID-19? Here's what to do

Finding another job during the coronavirus outbreak could be tough. But there are some alternatives that job-cut victims could explore.

May 19, 2020 / 01:51 PM IST

The coronavirus outbreak led to companies across the globe temporarily downsizing operations and also making employees work from home. Amidst this, several jobs were lost in companies that were struggling to spruce up revenues or had to completely suspend business in sectors like hospitality, aviation and travel/tourism.

Estimates from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed that 122 million people lost their jobs in April 2020 alone. Of this, about 75 percent are daily-wage earners and small traders.

Human resource officials told Moneycontrol that about 200,000 people have lost their jobs in the two-month period between March 15 and May 15. A majority of the job losses have been in the hospitality and tourism sector, followed by sales staff in the financial services sector.

Jobs cut

So, what do you do if you have lost your job? Apart from having a financial plan to deal with a job loss, here’s what a victim of pink slip can do:

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Read your employment contract

Once the employer has stated that you will be let go from your position, go back and read the employment contract. This contract has details stating under what circumstances can individuals be fired from a job. Look for details on the financial benefits offered in case of a job cut initiated by the company.

As far as possible, seek an immediate advance package from the company so that any financial liabilities in terms of loan installments and credit card dues can be paid off for about two to three months. Also, an employee should insist on getting an official letter or email from the organisation to this effect.

Laid-off employees across companies told Moneycontrol that the employer was using chat platform call services to inform them of the decision. In several cases, the employee was being asked to resign on their own.

“My employment contract stated that I will be eligible only for part bonuses and nothing else. Whereas if I was sacked, the provision was for three-months' pay. The company I worked for tried to persuade us to resign on our own. However, considering the benefits that would be lost, I decided against it,” says 36-year-old Manali Kharat, who lost her sales jobs in a financial services firm in April 2020.

If a company makes you leave in violation of a contract, you have the right to sue the organisation. Further, a company cannot ask you to quit in case you test COVID-19 positive and are unable to resume work for a few weeks. Similarly, pregnant women cannot be sacked from the job as per law.

Seek outplacement services

Several mid-sized and large organisations have the provision of outplacement services. This means that if they let go of an employee, he/she is to be offered hand-holding in finding a job.

For this purpose, companies take the help of outplacement firms who help selected employees find alternative employment. Hence, as soon as a company informs of a job cut decision, employees must write to the human resources team to seek clarity on whether outplacement services can be availed of.

COVID-19 has squeezed the number of job opportunities open in the market right now. Outplacement agencies would be more equipped to help sacked employees find another job.

Look for re-skilling areas

While there is a hiring freeze among companies, there are several skill-sets for which employers are still hiring.

For instance, in the IT sector skills like coding, Python programming and application development are among the in-demand ones.

If your employees asked you to leave, you could go to jobs portals or professional networking sites and look for allied skill areas where companies are still hiring. Since several e-learning platforms are now offering free courses on a temporary basis and job cut victims could make use of the opportunity.

Utilise time to work on freelance roles

Even if you are not able to secure a new job, don’t fret. Freelance roles are slowly opening up in sectors like IT, advertising, e-commerce, financial services and media/entertainment in the areas of digital marketing, data entry, customer services, online sales and content development.

The compensation in freelance roles may not replace the monthly pay for a salaried professional. However, the more the number of freelance projects you take up, the better is the pay. Once the lockdown ends, these freelance projects could be a value addition to the resume. HR experts state that individuals should also be open to seeking temporary roles in other sectors so that future job opportunities open up.

Seek help for any mental health issues

An often-forgotten aspect when someone loses his/her job is the mental health impact. During a pandemic situation like COVID-19 with a rapid increase in cases on a daily basis in India, losing one’s employment is likely to lead to anxiety and depression.

Online counselling and therapy sessions are available on nominal costs for individuals who may want to discuss issues related to uncertainty due to job cuts. Always seek professional help to tide over mental health issues during a tough time.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
M Saraswathy
first published: May 19, 2020 01:51 pm