The Ministry of Personnel on Thursday published a draft framework for “work from home” for government staff after the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus ends, PTI reported. The ministry said the Department of Personnel and Training may provide option for work from home to the eligible officers or staff for 15 days in a year. There are 48.34 lakh government employees.

In a communique to all central government departments, the personnel ministry said that the coronavirus pandemic has necessitated that ministries work from home, to observe physical distancing. “Many of the ministries/departments in Government of India have successfully managed and rendered exemplary results in combat against the ongoing pandemic outbreak during the lockdown period by leveraging e-office and video conferencing facilities of National Informatics Centre,” the ministry said.

The ministry added that it is likely that for the near future, the central secretariat will continue to opt for staggered attendance and variable working hours. At present, central government offices are working under full capacity.

The ministry said that to enable working from home, a new set of Standard Operating Procedures have been finalised for smooth functioning of the government. Departments will provide their employees with inventory such as laptops or desktops. “Ministries may use the inventory of laptops on rotational basis for the officers who are working from home and need such logistic support,” the guidelines said.

The employees could also be reimbursed for their internet usage. “Department of Expenditure may consider reimbursement for data uses to the officers working from home and if required may issue separate guidelines in this regards,” the draft said.

The draft guidelines added that ministries or departments that are not yet using the e-office module should make arrangements for it immediately. Presently, 75 ministries and departments are using the module, of which 57 have managed to put 80% of their work on the module.

However, the guidelines said that classified information cannot be accessed while working from home. “As per instructions of the Ministry of Home Affairs, no classified information shall be handled through e-office,” it said. “Therefore, classified files shall not be processed in e-office during work from home.”

The National Informatics Centre could evaluate the existing protocols for remote access to classified files in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs and propose guidelines for handling them in e-office. “Till the time classified files shall be processed on standalone computers only as specified in the Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedure,” the draft said.

The personnel ministry said that the National Informatics Centre should ensure that the laptops provided to employees are well protected against malware and malicious websites. Those working on their personal systems shall install regular updates, run antivirus scans and block malicious websites with the help of the centre, it added. “NIC video conferencing facility shall be leveraged to organise important meetings while working from home,” the guidelines further said.

The personnel ministry said that all central government departments should send their comments on the draft guidelines by May 21. If they do not do so, it will be assumed that they accede to all the guidelines.

The nationwide lockdown, which was scheduled to end on May 17, has been extended. So far, India has reported 78,003, and 2,549 people have died, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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