Social distancing and protection

Author: Pervez Tahir
Publication Year : 2021

The emergency forced upon us by the Covid-19 outbreak has brought home, among other failings, the stark reality of inadequate, dispersed, ill-coordinated and inefficient arrangements for social protection. All kinds of zombie schemes being added every day leave no doubt that it is more patchwork than a systemic endeavour. The federal government’s package focuses on the poor and the daily wage earners. For the workers in the formal sector, the expectation is that the employers receiving tax relief and debt facilitation will not lay off their workers during the lockdown. Only the Sindh government went ahead to notify a ban on layoffs by businesses operating in its jurisdiction. Such bans work only to some extent. Broadly, the employers were in compliance in the month of March. As the lockdown enters into April and may well go beyond, the employers have questioned the legality of the ban imposed under the Payment of Wages Act. They have come out with a long charter of demands. These demands expose the bits and pieces of whatever exists in the name of social protection. In support of these demands, they maintain that the Standing Orders Act allows them to take necessary measures including laying off their workers up to 14 days with half pay and to terminate them if the situation continues for an indefinite period.