Changing Work from Home Rules – What Employers in SEZs should know
(Arjun Paleri and Amit Baid)
The Department of Commerce notified an amendment to the Special Economic Zone Rules, 2006 (“Rules”) on July 14, 2022. The amendment inserts a new rule (Rule 43A) which includes provisions on providing the option of work from home to the employees of units located in Special Economic Zones (“SEZ/SEZs").
Key Highlights of the amendment
Eligible Employee: A unit of Information Technology and Information Technology enabled Services located in a Special Economic Zone (“SEZ”) can provide work from home (“WFH”) options to its employees, while units of other businesses located in an SEZ can provide WFH option to particular sections of its employees.
Proposal: Interested units need to submit a proposal for WFH to the Development Commissioner, either through mail or a physical application with the details of the option being provided to its employees.
Timeline for submission of proposal: Every proposal for WFH or an extension application must be made 15 (fifteen) days in advance. If any unit’s employees are already working from home on the date of commencement of the Rules (July 14th, 2022), a proposal must be submitted within 90 (ninety) days from the date of the commencement of the Rules.
Evaluation of proposal: The Development Commissioner will evaluate the proposal and decide accordingly. The period of such permission will be for 1 (one) year, which may be extended if the extension application complies with the Rules.
Providing necessary facilities to the employees: The Rules allow units to temporarily remove various electronic equipment (collectively referred to as “goods”) meant for SEZ to the Domestic Tariff Area so that employees on the WFH option can use it. Before doing so, the Unit has to fulfil the mandated requirements and take required permission from the Specified Officer.
Obligations of the Employer/Unit: The unit, which gives its employees a WFH option, has to maintain attendance records of such employees and submit them to the Development Commissioner from time to time.
Things to consider – Businesses located in the SEZs:
Must identify the accurate number of eligible employees and prepare the proposal accordingly;
Maintain documentation and records of employees who have taken the option, attendance, and authorisations provided; and
Consider their policies for working from home, employment terms and data privacy requirements and privileges.