The fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown due to Coronavirus pandemic is nearing its end and slowly but surely things are moving towards normalcy. The fifth phase of the lockdown might be announced by the government soon, but it will obviously come with several relaxations with the emphasis on the resumption of economic activities, especially the manufacturing sector. While this crisis has impacted each and every sector of the economy, the blue-collar workers have been hit the hardest.
The impact of coronavirus pandemic on blue-collar workers
Most blue-collar workers are migrants who have been working in the manufacturing sector across the country. Forced shutdown of the manufacturing units created a survival crisis for the workers who were left without their source of income. Inability to access quality medical facilities and meet their basic requirements led to a mass exodus of the workers to their hometowns where they expect to bide their time till normalcy resumes. Now when the workers return, eventually, the responsibility of the employers would increase manifolds. Not only would the employers be expected to take care of the economic welfare of their employees but also their personal health as well.
Medical facilities available for workers
Before the “new normal” happened, the normal for blue-collar workers was not so pleasant either. Due to limited earning potential and rising inflation, access to quality medical facilities was limited. In such a scenario, the workers would generally visit the nearest pharmacy and take the medicines recommended by the pharmacist. While this solution solved their problems, for the time being, improper medication has long term effects which adversely affected their health. Many employers were oblivious of this fact and did not pay much attention to the health of their employees. But things are now set-up for a big overhaul, and in the post-COVID19 world, employee health is becoming an important matter for the employers.
What the future holds for workers and companies
From now on, the health and well-being of the workers is not only their own matter but is also extremely crucial for the employers. As a result, we can expect to see some interesting developments in the days to come that will highlight the importance of the health of the workers: –
Mandatory medical insurance
Previously, many companies used to look at employee medical insurance as an additional expense. But from now one, it will become an investment for the company. Workers will prefer working for those employers who offer a comprehensive medical insurance and financial well-being package. This will compel the employers to offer medical insurance as well as other health benefits for their employees. It might or might not be made mandatory by the government, but the market dynamics will make it necessary for employers to offer this facility for their employees.
Teleconsultations with doctors for different ailments has been one of the biggest revolutions in the healthcare systems. But its reach was still restricted to individuals and families who were financially well-off. But now with the increased emphasis on the health of the workers, employers are incorporating teleconsultations with medical experts as a part of an employee wellness package. Now, even the blue-collar workers will be able to access the best health experts and that too, without the hassles of waiting in the queue for hours. This will again be a big differentiator for workers while opting to work for a particular employer.
Employers will do well to invest in health monitoring of the workers regularly. This can be accomplished through an in-house expert, an outsourcing agreement with a medical professional or with the help of remote monitoring devices. Smartwatches are a good example of how the health of the user can be monitored easily with the help of mobile apps. The rapid pace at which the technology is evolving, companies can ensure regular health monitoring of their workers and that too at a fraction of the cost.
Hygiene and cleanliness
The workers will now be expected to ensure their personal hygiene and cleanliness for their own as well as their colleagues’ safety. But the responsibility of the employers will increase manifolds. Ensuring availability of face masks, gloves, face shields, glass walls, hand sanitizers, PPE’s, and regular sanitation of the workplace will be necessary for all employers. Additionally, employers will have to sensitize the workers regarding preferred hygiene practices and observing social distancing. While it might take a lot of effort, the results will surely be encouraging for the entire country.
It is impossible to imagine the Indian growth story without recognizing the contribution and the hard work of the blue-collar workers across the country. As the Coronavirus crisis is far from over, employers will do well to start preparing for the new normal as soon as possible.