Coronavirus impact: Software Technology Parks asks firms to work from home

Companies across sectors are asking their staff to work from home and adopting technologies like telepresence and video-conferencing to ensure business continuity

In a precautionary move to check spread of deadly coronavirus, state-owned Software Technology Parks of India on Thursday issued advisory that enables around 18-20 lakh employees of IT units registered with it to work from home.

IT industry body NASSCOM had urged the government to relax restrictions regarding allowing employees to work from home, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Currently, there are restrictions on WFH (work from home) under the OSP (other service providers) regime.

"There are rules that allow employees to work from home in certain situation. We have issued those enabling clauses and will motivate all units registered with us to implement it. There are around 3,000 exporters registered with us and around 18-20 lakh employees work with them," STPI Director General Omkar Rai told PTI.

The urgent advisory issued by STPI, which overseas facilities and rules for software exporters, said in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, units may require employees to work from home using the laptop or desktop provided by the unit to them.

"In this connection, para-6.07 of HBOP (handbook of procedures) of FTP, inter-alia, permits employees of STP/EHTP units to take duty fee laptops/computers, etc, out of premises of unit for working upon by authorised employees," the advisory said.

STPI mentioned another rule which permits authorised employees of STP (Software Technology Parks)-ETHP units to work from a place outside the unit.

"Keeping in view of the outbreak of coronavirus, it is advised to make the industry/industry associations aware of this rule position enabling to make aforesaid precautionary measures in this regard for continuity of business operations in a seamless manner," the advisory said.

The coronavirus outbreak, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, has led to more than 4,000 deaths so far globally. The government on Wednesday suspended all visas, barring a few categories like diplomatic and employment, in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus as cases across India rose to more than 70.

Companies across sectors are asking their staff to work from home and adopting technologies like telepresence and video-conferencing to ensure business continuity.

However, companies continue to struggle in operationalising WFH for their employees, owing to the onerous compliance and technical requirements under the prevailing OSP regime. These requirements include establishing PPVPN connectivity, sharing pre-defined locations of extended agents (employees), and providing high monetary security deposits, among others.

PPVPN (Provider Provisioned Virtual Private Network) is generally used by companies to ensure secure communications for employees working from remote locations.

Nasscom, which represents IT and BPO companies as well as start-ups, has written to Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the issue.

In its letter, Nasscom urged that requirements pertaining to WFH under the OSP regime be relaxed for a period of one month as an interim emergency measure.

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