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  • Subject Name : General Management

Rights and Responsibilities of Employees During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Workers are the core of any business and that the health of any business depends on the employees and consumers’ wellbeing. The commitment towards these human rights will be a boon to both the wellbeing of the workers and the economy all over the world as fundamental human rights and freedom make the system more resilient and flexible towards the crisis (Council of Europe, 2020a). The guidance and laws on human rights including the UN Guiding principles on the business and related human rights which have been planned to advise the managers to act responsibly and efficiently in dealing with the disaster and related employee treatment therein plays a very significant role in maintaining the welfare of employees. Thus the base of every business is to respect human rights-related issues of the employees in their operations and processes and the effective way for this is to develop and employ effective human rights procedures and protocols in their organization (Council of Europe, 2020b). The aim of this assessment is to shed some light on the employee’s rights and responsibilities during this pandemic situation of COVID-19. Here, the rights and employees as per the ILO guidelines and other safety measures will be discussed with the help of credible sources.

The world has been transformed in the four months of a pandemic with an unprecedented and globally active crisis with a significant impact on health, economy, and social impacts everywhere where the world is in a threat of going into a recession. ILO’s new global estimates reveal that working hours will decrease by 6.7 % in the second quarter of 2020 which is equal to 195 million jobs lost (ILO, 2020a). It should be noted that the final count of the total job losses this year will depend on the intensity of the evolution of the pandemic and various measures taken by the government to contain and mitigate this pandemic. Many businesses today are facing the challenges of massive downfall in demand or deviation in the demand sector, supply chain and mobility, and protection of workers. In this pandemic situation, employees too are facing the shocks with the fear of being infected or losing lives (IHRB, 2020). These losses and threats can be exaggerated by the lack of protection and vulnerable attitudes of the social protection coverage, which means adequate social and medical protection, can release the threats in them.

In the times of the corona pandemic, workers are expected to follow the guidelines and the measures of occupational health and safety which are established in their workplace and to participate in the related training which is provided by the employer. It is expected from the workers that they must report any hazard taken place or may take place immediately after their notice to their supervisor in situations where their life and health are at risk (Council of Europe, 2020b). Workers have the right to take a back step and remove themselves from any situation which they think can be hazardous for their life or health by giving reasonable justification that the situations presented an imminent and serious danger and that they have the right to be protected against the consequences according to the exercise of this right.

It is the responsibility of the employers that the action plan is made and undertaken to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the business plan of the company and the response according to the epidemiological situations and risk assessments (Sikkink, 2020). It is the responsibility of the workers too apart from the employers that the action plan and preventive measures against COVID followed properly and the workers in their capacity should maintain that all the people including clients, visitors, customers, and contractors do follow the measures. The new guidelines for the businesses have been released to support the working families during the COVID-19 pandemic as issued by the ILO and UNICEF (ILO, 2020b). The primary guidelines urge the employers to assess the impact of COVID -related economic downturn and social impact on the families of employees and to include these factors into their business planning in order to provide social and economic protection to them wherever and whenever possible and to minimize the negative impacts of outbreaks for workers and their families (Sikkink, 2020).

It is the right of the employees to avail of the facilities in the office premises which are being provided under the guidelines by national and local authorities and to effectively communicate about these at the workplace (Billett, 2020). All the employees have the right to review the existing workplace policies to ensure that the workplace is safe to work in and the employer is providing adequate support to the workers. They can speak and review if the office management is following the good practices based on social dialogue, national and international labor laws, and guidelines issued by international institutions (Billett, 2020). The employees have the right to refuse to work for health and safety reasons if in any case, he/she finds that adequate measures have not been taken by the management for the management of the outbreak and that there is a chance of catching the infection. Broadly three categories of rights have been defined by ILO(International Labour Organization) namely, the right to know, the right to participate and the right to refuse dangerous work (ILO, 2020)

It has been reported that the employees of an organization have the right to report the discrimination and social stigma at the work and to ensure training, confidential, and safe reporting mechanisms (ILO, 2020). It is their right to avail of the office premises which should be strengthened with adequate occupational safety and health measures, including the manual on occupational health and safety rulebooks to fight with the coronavirus (IHRB, 2020). The employees have the right to avail of adequate medical and healthcare facilities anytime in the office premises and to use the adequate transport facility towards the hospital from offices, in Covid-19 positive cases (IHRB, 2020).

In addition to rights, there are certain responsibilities in which all the employees are required to be followed in order to keep themselves and other colleagues safe during the corona pandemic. The employee has the responsibility to inform himself by the consulting information provided by the health agencies and by their employers like the 2019 covid pandemic outbreak update (ILO, 2020). The employees are responsible for following the management guidelines and that it is their responsibility to help the company in containing and not spreading the virus in the capacity of work (ILO, 2020). There are some reasonable expectations for all the employees regardless of their positions in the organization. These responsibilities include use of the safest types of equipment as far as possible provided to the employees, comply with all the instructions from the employer concerning health and safety protocols for the employees, cooperate with any person who is carrying the duty set out in the code of conduct (Government of Canada, 2020).

Moreover, it has been expected that if the employee has any symptom like fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, he thus immediately inform the manager and go home if working in the office and thereby follow the advice of the local health authorities and their guidelines (Government of Canada, 2020). The employee should isolate himself at the time of his experiencing symptoms at home and staying at home as long as possible till the authorities reach him or as directed by the local public health authorities (ILO, 2020). The employee should promote the regular teleporting in the organization as directed by the management because teleworking will help the business keep operating while staying the employees safe. The employees should be responsible and should help in promoting good respiratory hygiene, help in the availability of surgical face masks or paper tissues any time available in the office, and shall use hand sanitizer and hand wash regularly all around the workplace (ILO, 2020).

Besides, employees have to ensure that their workstations are properly sanitized and measures of sanitization are effectively followed. To prevent and address the social stigma associated with the pandemic, it is a negative association between a person and group who share similar diseases, thus employees must prevent such labeling, stereotyping, and discriminating behavior against such employees (Barnes & Sax, 2020). If an employee has come after travel, he must report to the healthcare center before going to the workplace or any other area in order to ensure that he is not contributing to the spread of the virus and to ensure his own safety. 

The safety of workers and employees form the view of the economy, social safety and health are very important for them to carry out the business in which they are enrolled as in the stressed time of corona pandemic, the workers need essential support from the industry and the governments and the guidelines were required as the business started to cut the cost and expel the employees and it may have led to the social and economic chaos of the workers, thus guidelines were made and instructed to strictly followed. In addition to the guidelines, some additional suggestions are also issued by the country’s governments and international organizations which were necessary on the part of people and businesses to follow and which cannot be forcefully regularized. Thus for the safety of all the stakeholders in this issue, these guidelines are taken seriously and be followed.

References for Strategies for Effective Practice

Barnes, M. & Sax, P. (2020). Challenges of “return to work” in an ongoing pandemic. The New England Journal of Medicine, 383, 779-786. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsr2019953

Billett, S. (2020). Learning in the workplace: Strategies for effective practice. Routledge.

Council of Europe (2020a). Human rights are more important than ever in times of crisis. Retrieved from: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/covid-19

Council of Europe (2020b). The impact of the covid-19 pandemic on human rights and the rule of law - our action. Retrieved from https://www.coe.int/en/web/human-rights-rule-of-law/covid19

Government of Canada. (2020). Corona virus disease (covid-19): Your rights and responsibilities as an employee. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/government/publicservice/covid-19/rights-responsibilities.html#toc2

ILO. (2020a). Almost 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide as a result of covid-19, says ilo. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_738742/lang--en/index.htm

ILO. (2020b). New guidelines to help employers support families during covid-19. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_740217/lang--en/index.htm

 IHRB. (2020). Respecting human rights in the time of the covid-19 pandemic: examining companies’ responsibilities for workers and affected communities. Retrieved from https://www.ihrb.org/focus-areas/covid-19/report-respectinghuman-rights-in-the-time-of-covid19.

Sikkink, K. (2020). Rights and responsibilities in the corona virus pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.openglobalrights.org/rights-and-responsibilities-in-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

WHO (2020). Employers and workers. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/teams/risk-communication/employers-and-workers?gclid=Cj0KCQjw28T8BRDbARIsAEOMBcyjQEf5FteuLNjwnxhf68xocibL1pL4ZZhLb7TMqCollEtv82r-AsQaAtCXEALw_wcB

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