With little support from governments and organizations in Pakistan, what can employees expect?

We are currently living in an unpredictable world. COVID-19 is adversely impacting individuals and crippling businesses around the globe. Ranging from the travel industry to the entertainment industry, there isn’t a single financial market in the world that isn’t hit by the pandemic. When even the most powerful economies in the world like the US are unable to deal with the crisis, the question arises: How are employees and businesses in Pakistan going to cope with it? With multiple cities all across Pakistan on lockdown and the threat of the virus still looming, how do we move forward from here?

The Effect of Coronavirus on Jobs in Pakistan

On March 24, 2020, the Sindh government announced paid leaves for workers and ordered organizations not to lay off employees during the 15-day lockdown. But that’s all it was: A mere request. The government didn’t threaten to take legal action against the companies that did not comply. Considering companies also have a right to preserve themselves, it is understandable why the government didn’t threaten to take strict action against organizations that lay off employees during the lockdown. What does this mean? This means that even if employees continue to protest against being laid off, companies can do so, and no one would be able to object to it.

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For instance, on March 6, a member of Halaat Updates complained about how certain multinational companies like Onederland situated in Lucky One Mall in Karachi, tricked staff into submitting resignations. She went on to say that at a time when organizations should be giving employees bonuses as Eid and Ramadan are around the corner, they are doing the opposite. Most of the staff working at Onederland belongs to the middle class and that they would have a hard time surviving now that they are out of a job.

Support for Workers and Economic Relief Measures

The majority of countries in the world are doing their best to help employees during these tough times. For instance, Ireland and Denmark announced that they would pay every citizen a sick leave to stay home. This way, not only would the countries not face economic hardships, but employees would willingly stay at home knowing their jobs are secured. Similarly, Canada is substituting 75% of wages for employees to help companies suffering from losses during this crisis to retain their employees. Many private companies have resorted to slashing salaries or putting employees on furlough instead of outrightly laying off individuals they have invested in training.

According to a survey conducted by the Trade Union Congress in 86 countries, only 21% of these countries were providing paid sick leave to workers to encourage them to spend some time in isolation while 29% had bailout funds for businesses or sectors. Unfortunately not all countries have the economic might to inject money into the economy. The companies that can sustain themselves and continue functioning during this period will find ways to retain employees but those who’ve been forced to shut doors or are incurring major losses might have to take more stringent action.

Walmart announced that it would pay its employees who have contracted the virus a two-week sick leave. Uber announced the same for its drivers. At a time when self-quarantining is being strongly recommended and sometimes even imposed, daily wage workers in some countries don’t have a choice but to report to duty even if they are feeling unwell. Many hide their systems to continue working in order to get paid.

Compassion During the CoronaVirus Crisis

We are encountering challenging times and the companies and economies that weather this storm will only emerge stronger. Self-preservation is the first law of nature so it’s understandable that every individual and entity will do whatever is needed to sustain themselves. If you do lose your job or get a letter of termination, know your rights. Most employment contracts state that if the employee is laid off he/she is eligible to 3 months’ salary. This is a standard in most cases so it is best to act from a position of strength and knowledge and demand the compensation if it has been stated in your contract.

The stress of losing a job can be overwhelming, but you need to know that you are not alone. Millions of others have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, but you will eventually rebound by finding the right support and keeping a positive attitude.

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