As fresh coronavirus infections cross the 400,000-a-day mark, several companies have decided to cut down work shifts and reduce working hours.
This comes as several state governments have announced, and extended localised restrictions in view of the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases.
A year after the national lockdown of 2020, many state governments have imposed night curfews, weekend, or complete lockdowns to limit the movement of people as cases spiral out of control.
Moneycontrol had earlier reported that Maruti Suzuki is considering fewer shifts at its Gurugram and Manesar plants because of COVID-19 protocols.
Much like the companies, the Indian Banking Association had also taken a decision to cut staff attendance by 50 percent and shorten working hours.
Staffing firms, however, believe that a cut in work shifts is unlikely to lead to job losses.
According to Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-founder and Executive Vice President, Teamlease, most companies and manufacturing facilities are working with watertight headcounts, hence a cut in work shifts is unlikely to translate into job cuts.
Said Chakraborty: "Unlike the 2020 lockdown, the companies have now been allowed to function. A lot of the workforce had then migrated back to their hometowns and villages and even after the lockdown was lifted, not all had returned. The cut in work shifts is because this infection is spreading very rapidly, and many workers and employers are down with it. "
We do not anticipate that a cut in work shifts would translate into job cuts because the headcount is very low already and it is not easy to find and recruit a workforce. Moreover, the lockdowns announced by the state governments are of a much shorter duration, say for fortnight or so, she added.
Said Lohit Bhatia, President, Workforce Management, Quess Corp: "The lockdowns in different parts of the country are of a shorter duration and are not as draconian as the national lockdown in 2020. It is highly unlikely for shift cuts to translate into job cuts in the formal workforce. Employers do not want to let go off quality and skilled workers, also because the cost of training and recruiting workers is a lengthy and costly process."
Bhatia, however, cautioned that cuts in work shifts will have a direct implication on sectors such as construction where the influence of daily wage workers and informal workers is high.
He also noted that several manufacturing facilities have also cut down on shifts to route their oxygen supplies to hospitals facing shortages.
"Unlike last time, the lockdowns this year are driven by state governments and hence their impact on job losses are limited due to two factors – first, the impacted geographical areas are limited and second, the lockdown durations are shorter and with a clear end date compared to last year. This has largely helped the companies to plan their actions and sustain economic activities. As a result, in the organized sectors, the companies have so far restrained themselves in affecting any major layoffs, said Alok Kumar, Senior Director, Manpower.
He, however, said that there is a large degree of absenteeism from work, indirectly contributing to job losses.
"Overall, this has impacted on the availability of workers, especially in essential services sectors like ecommerce, logistics, warehousing and manufacturing, among others,” he added.
According to Suchita Dutta, Executive Director, Indian Staffing Federation, shift cuts are being announced to safeguard the employees and employers.
She also noted – like Quess Corp’s Bhatia - that employers this year are better prepared for contingencies after their experience of the 2020 lockdown.
"The lockdowns this year are small, but the risk is much greater," Dutta remarked.
Most industry experts tend to concur. Said Varad Maheshwari, Associate Manager, Michael Page India: "Job losses this time will be very minimal because the lockdown is going to be of a small period. Secondly, companies might go for 12 hours 2 shifts a day and rotate people giving alternate days off. "He added: "Also, many manufacturing plants have planned to set up localized facilities for migrants to stay back and not move." Looks like 2020 has provided the template for lockdowns.