The government has amended the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) rules to permit IT/ITeS units in these areas to allow 100% of their workforce to work from home (WFH) till December 31, 2023, with certain conditions.
“A unit may permit its employees to work from home or from any place outside the SEZ,” the commerce ministry said in a notification.
According to the amended rule 43A under the SEZ law, 2006, employees of IT and information technology-enabled services, employees who are travelling as well as those who are working offsite will be allowed to WFH or any place outside SEZs.
In July, the Centre allowed half of the workforce in SEZs, including contractual workers, to work from home. Till now, WFH was permitted for a maximum period of one year in an SEZ unit. The flexibility was also granted to development commissioners of SEZs to approve a higher number of people to WFH.
However, during the implementation of the rules, the industry pointed out that there were various challenges in interpretation as well as compliance-related challenges.
The new rule states that a unit will have to only maintain the lists of employees who are allowed to follow WFH or from any place outside SEZs. The list will have to be submitted to the development commissioner whenever required.
Besides, employees will have to be provided with duty-free goods, including laptops, desktops, and other electronic equipment for WFH or any place outside the SEZ, without any payment of IGST or services tax on a temporary basis.
“The Union Ministry of Commerce has further simplified work-from-home rules in SEZs after Nasscom made a series of deliberations and government engagements,” the IT apex body said in a statement.
“This is a major step towards enabling ease of doing business and will provide much-needed flexibility for companies operating in SEZs to develop a strong hybrid work model for the future,” Nasscom said, adding that there will be no need to file an application to seek approval for WFH and there is no restriction on the extent of WFH that can be enabled by a unit in the SEZ.
“The only requirement is that the units shall intimate the local Development Commissioner through an email that they are implementing a WFH model,” the statement said.
“Our data reveals that remote job searches on the Indeed platform show an increase of 8.6% in June 2022 over the pre-pandemic baseline (January 2020). Similarly, remote job postings have also increased by 7.1% in June 2022 compared to January 2020,” Saumitra Chand, Career Expert at Indeed India said.
According to him, this burgeoning demand for remote jobs is backed by the fact that geographical boundaries are blurring while employers hire and job seekers aggressively scout for opportunities. It also allows MNCs and IT firms to hire skilled talent from different parts of the country.
“This policy comes at a crucial juncture when organisations are laying the foundation for a post-pandemic future and strengthening their capabilities. It is likely to have a disruptive impact on organisations and the industry at large,” he said.