Kushal Kolthe, a senior revenue manager at holiday home rental company Vista Rooms, was put on leave without pay in late March. “Initially some of us were asked to take a sabbatical but as the Covid situation worsened, we were told to go on LWP. They were very upfront and transparent about it,” says the Mumbai resident. “Of course I wasn’t really happy about it but I understood it’s a difficult decision.” In the intervening months, Kolthe tried to start a brand with his friends which kept him occupied for a while. Then, in August he got a new job… his old one.

Rehiring has become a bit of a trend of late, says Munira Loliwala, Business Head, Permanent and Specialised staffing, Team-Lease, a staffing company. “Across industries, 40% of our client base is considering or looking at rehiring laid off workers. This is happening the most in the financial services industry, then in manufacturing, followed by hospitality and healthcare,” she says. For the most part, however, these are not permanent positions. “The rehiring is usually for some project work, or as freelancers to add certain skills or improve sales productivity. Of the 40% looking to rehire, only 5-10% would be as permanent positions,” adds Loliwala.

Amit Damani, founder of Vista Rooms, says they had to put half their 200-people workforce on leave when the hospitality industry was badly hit by the pandemic. “We had hired a lot of people from January onwards because we were looking to expand quite aggressively, but when this happened, we had to, as all businesses did, reconfigure our plans,” he says. So 100-odd people were sent on leave and told that they were the company’s first priority when the situation improved.

In July, as the interest in private homes and villas grew, they began to make good on their promise. They have brought about 50 people back. “Ninety per cent of the people were let go not because of performance but circumstances. This was a way of showing we value their experience,” says Damani. He also pointed out one big advantage of rehiring — those employees have already been part of the system and familiar with processes and culture.

Loliwala says the definition of rehiring is different in these cases. “The typical example of it was someone who voluntarily resigns and rejoins two years later at a different level. Here, we’re talking about laid off workers.”

Sahil Sharma, global head of Human Resources at travel and hotel software company RateGain, says they had to put 250 people across the globe on furlough. “Of the 130 people in India put on furlough, only 40 are still on it,” he says. “The rest have either come back or moved on to other opportunities. We kept our communication transparent about why we’re putting them on furlough, how soon they can come back, will they come back, all of that.” Their workers have returned on the same salaries, and any bonuses or promotions due were followed through on.

As the HR head, though, Sharma had to have many conversations with employees who were let go. “March and April went into questions like ‘Why me? Why not her?’. But I explained that we didn’t look at performance but the role they have. The sales team, for instance, was reduced because no one was buying our product. But we needed our engineering team to address concerns of our existing clients.”

Nisha Rawat, who works in client servicing at RateGain and was recently brought back, says despite the uncertainty, the furlough did give her some free time. “I appreciated their gesture to keep my medical cover throughout the furlough period.”

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Ketaki Desaih
Time of India