In wake of coronavirus outbreak, DoT relaxes work from home norms for IT-ITeS firms

Amid coronavirus scare, industry body Nasscom and IT leaders requested the government to relax norms to facilitate business continuity in the sector.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) has relaxed certain norms for Other Service Providers (OSPs) till April 30 to facilitate work from home (WFH) amid the coronavirus outbreak.

These include exemptions in requirement of the security deposit and agreement for WFH facility for OSPs (IT and IT-enabled services companies), as well as the need for prior permission for offering the facility.

Industry body Nasscom and leaders of the IT industry had requested the government to relax the norms to facilitate business continuity that is posing to be a major challenge for the sector.

Nasscom, in a tweet on Friday, thanked Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and his team for "the much needed relaxation".

"The industry is extremely grateful for this," it said while sharing the government order.

According to the order, DoT has decided to grant certain relaxations for a period of up to April 30, 2020, for OSPs in respect of WFH.

One of the exemptions includes the requirement of authorised Service Providers Provisioned secured VPN (PPVPN). VPN refers to virtual private network.

"During this period, the OSPs are permitted to use secured VPN configured using 'static IP' address by themselves for interconnection between Home agent position and OSP Centre with pre-defined locations," it said.

The document added that in this regard, the agents at home shall be treated as Extended Agent Position of the OSP.

The document said in case of violation of terms of WFH facility by any agent/employee or by the OSP during this period, the OSP shall be subjected to a penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh per WFH location, which is in violation.

In addition, the OSP registration is also liable to be cancelled.

"Other terms and conditions of OSP registration including maintaining of all logs of the activities carried out by the Extended Agents shall remain unchanged," it said.

On Thursday, state-owned Software Technology Parks of India had issued an advisory to enable around 18-20 lakh employees of IT units registered with it to work from home.

Over 80 people (including 17 foreign nationals) have tested positive for coronavirus. A 76-year-old man from Karnataka became the country's first coronavirus fatality on Thursday.

The pandemic – whose epicentre is at Wuhan in China – has infected over 1.31 lakh people in 116 countries and territories and claimed more than 4,900 lives.

While the outbreak has disrupted businesses, corporates across sectors are asking their staff to work from home and adopting technologies like telepresence and video conferencing to ensure business continuity.

However, many organisations are struggling in operationalising WFH for their employees, owing to the onerous compliance and technical requirements under the prevailing OSP regime.

These requirements included establishing PPVPN connectivity, sharing predefined locations of extended agents (employees), and providing high monetary security deposits, among others.

Keshav Murugesh, Chairman of Nasscom and WNS Group CEO, said the industry body will encourage its members to adhere to the amended clauses and prioritise their implementation.

"Companies should encourage employees to leverage telepresence and video conferencing to enable seamless engagement. While ensuring that there is minimal disruption to business, we also recognise that the health and safety of employees is of paramount concern," he added.

Murugesh said the two-fold objective is to ensure employee well-being while hedging negative impact on the industry's overall productivity.

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)


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