Updated: Apr 3, 2020
By Alex Berryman
In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, we have seen the emotional and financial stress that is associated with factory closures. With many factories implementing unpaid leave policies and mass layoffs, manufacturing workers are often left without support and means of income.
At Purnaa, we closed temporarily but then were approached by hospitals about making masks. We ramped up the production of these emergency medical supplies and have work available for the production staff willing to do it. However, some staff are choosing to stay isolated because of illness in their home or out of fear of contracting COVID-19, so operations are running with a reduced skeletal staff at the factory. Many managers are working from home when possible.
Knowing the impact of these tough times, Purnaa leadership and especially the HR team have worked tirelessly to provide support to staff during the lockdowns in Nepal, particularly in protecting mental and physical health, as well as providing financial support. I sat down with Rebecca Shrestha, Purnaa’s HR manager to discuss what policies were put in place to continue to support Purnaa staff.
Rebecca, thank you for speaking with me about the impacts of COVID-19. What have you seen is the biggest impact on Purnaa staff thus far?
The main thing is, this COVID-19 has created uncertainty. At first, people were sad because of not getting materials [thus creating a shortage of work]. Now they are concerned about not having work. The main thing is they are worried about how long it will take until things return to normal. They love being in the community, they are getting bored staying at home. This has a big impact on their mental health. As an HR team, our main concern is to provide mental health support.
What has Purnaa’s response been to the Coronavirus?
As a company, we have shared full information about the symptoms of COVID-19. Prior to closing, we provided sanitation stations throughout the factory as well as information on how to effectively sanitize at home. The HR team is on call to react if an employee is in need of assistance during the lockdown, providing any emergency support needed.
We have also created communication strategies to keep in contact throughout the lockdown, ensuring our staff stays connected.
What sort of benefits do we offer?
During the Coronavirus, we have a plan to handle financial issues. During the lockdown, we are offering paid leave and stipends to assist in covering expenses. This has created a feeling of ease among the staff, they say "the government doesn’t have any plans, but our company is already helping employees".
It is important to us to make sure our staff has access to the things they need. During normal business times, we offer a social fund that helps pay for employee’s children’s schooling as well as assists if there are any emergencies for the staff or their families. Additionally, we provide health insurance and extra emergency assistance to all staff and their families.
Is this the norm in Nepal? How is Purnaa different?
I see a vast difference between Purnaa and other companies, we are not just a company but a community. We are different because we follow our values in our daily lives, we care for our employees and listen to them. Other factories do not provide home leave, nor are they providing benefits or continuing employment during lockdowns.
As you mentioned, mental health is a concern among Purnaa employees? How are we raising morale?
We have a strong community in Purnaa. Using Facebook we are posting videos and pictures to stay connected and raise morale. We are calling each team member each day to see how they are doing to protect their mental health.
Because of our values of love and justice, at Purnaa we are committed to standing by our employees, even through these tough times. We are here to promote their mental, physical and financial health because Purnaa is not just an employer, but a community.
To learn more about how Purnaa supports our staff see our previous blog posts.
Purnaa's Core Values -- How do our core values affect everything we do
Safety Comes first - How we ensure safety for our staff in our work environments
The Significance of Continuous Employment - How does Purnaa differ from other employers