As employers wake up to the reality of COVID-19, how can they minimize risks for employees and ensure business continuity? Amit Anand reports

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic in the wake of increasing cases and casualties and each country has been making every effort to cease the spread of the virus.

India has also been proactively taking steps to curb the spread of COVID-19. The government is on high alert and has been issuing orders and advisories to contain the damage. Yet with each passing day, cases of COVID-19 are increasing in India, and therefore it’s important to take steps to minimize human contact and ultimately contain its spread.

The government has invoked the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DMA), enabling the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other concerned departments to take virus control measures. It is also collecting and testing random community samples to ascertain the gravity and extent of the virus’ spread.

Most of the affected states in India have declared COVID-19 an “epidemic” under the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 (EDA). The government has already promulgated travel restrictions and suspended visas in order to minimize the exposure of India to the virus. It has also notified the quarantine rules for travellers (including for Indian nationals) coming from affected countries.

Among the above-mentioned developments, it has become important to understand the duties, obligations and rights of employers and employees to place safeguards against COVID-19. The provisions embedded in Part III, Fundamental Rights and Part IV, Directive Principles of State Policy of India, in the Constitution of India, form the basis of workplace safety and health laws in the country by imposing a duty on the state to implement policies that promote the safety and health of workers at workplaces.

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Preetha S and Ajay Singh Solanki are leaders at the HR law practice of Nishith Desai Associates, and Vikram Shroff is the head of the HR law practice.