Amid coronavirus fears, techies get work-from-home breather as DoT relaxes norms

Nasscom had requested the government to relax the work-from-home norms to facilitate business continuity

New Delhi: To enable IT and ITeS companies to allow their employees to work remotely amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has relaxed certain work from home (WFH) norms till April 30.

Now, these firms, which are considered by the DoT as Other Service Providers (OSPs) will no longer need prior permission from the DoT or be required to pay a heavy security deposit or adhere to other strict rules under the norms for WFH facility.

Industry body Nasscom and leaders of the IT industry had requested the government to relax the norms to facilitate business continuity.

One of the norms required employees working from home to use a virtual private network (VPN) provided only by authorised service providers, likely due to the sensitivity of the work, and to prevent misuse of authority hiding behind unauthorised VPNs.

VPN technology, which was originally developed to allow remote users and branch offices to access corporate applications and resources, is also used by individuals to connect to proxy servers in a different geographic location to remain anonymous online by protecting one’s identity and location.

Now, with the relaxation of norms, an employee of an IT or ITeS firm can use secure VPNs configured by themselves using a static IP but can do so only from pre-defined locations.

The DoT document also said that the employees at home will be treated as extended agents of the OSP or IT and ITes firms that they work for. Any violation of terms would attract a penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh per WFH location which is in violation.

IT and ITes companies that violate the norms stand to have their OSP registration cancelled.

The DoT also insisted that employees working from home maintain all logs of activities and follow all other terms mandated for OSP registration.

Many organisations were struggling in operationalising WFH for their employees, owing to the onerous compliance and technical requirements under the OSP regime before the norms were relaxed.

On Thursday, state-owned Software Technology Parks of India had issued an advisory to enable around 18-20 lakh employees of IT units registered with it to work from home.

Corporates across sectors are asking their staff to work from home and adopting technologies like telepresence and video-conferencing to ensure business continuity.

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