BENGALURU: Wipro has introduced an “extended bench period” where identified employees will be on loss of pay for three months. These employees will continue to receive their insurance coverage, but nothing else.
The bench in IT companies is a reference to people who do not have billable projects to work on. That number tends to be 5-7% of total employees. In the large IT services firms, several thousands will be on the bench at any point.
Wipro’s latest change seems to be directed at those who are already on the bench, and those who have been rated poorly in the latest performance assessments. If after the extended three months the employee still does not have a billable project, he/she may be asked to go.
Wipro’s email to impacted employees says: “You may choose to avail your available and accrued leave balance during the period. Upon exhausting your earned leave, you will be placed on loss of pay for the remainder of the extended bench period.” TOI has seen a copy of the email.
The changes are part of a new allocation and deployment policy, and looks to be one of the first major actions by new CEO Thierry Delaporte. The policy states that the company reserves its right to initiate action, including termination, if an employee fails to join a suitable billable project within the timelines prescribed.
When TOI asked Wipro about it, the company said in a statement: “The allocation and deployment policy for India covers those who are not engaged in assignments and have remained unbilled for an extended period. The policy is applied upon receiving the employee’s consent and will extend for three months. During their period of leave, while awaiting their next assignment, Wipro is committed to helping these employees reskill themselves.”
Wipro said these employees will only receive insurance coverage, while discretionary bonus and quarterly performance linked compensation (QPLC) shall cease to exist during the loss of pay period. Wipro’s performance matrix has five ratings –outstanding contribution, exceeds expectations, highly-valuable contribution, more contribution expected and unsatisfactory contribution. “During the pre-pandemic days, Wipro used to put a lock on the profiles of those who are in the bottom-rung on the performance stack. These employees aren’t given projects despite them finding one with some internal contacts,” said an employee on conditions of anonymity.
Wipro also said a key area of focus in the current environment in India is to protect jobs. It described the extension of the bench period as a one-time exception to support and protect jobs.
The company has maintained that it has not done any retrenchments on account of the pandemic induced crisis. Wipro chairman Rishad Premji reiterated this in the recent AGM.
All IT companies have seen their growth rates collapse following the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last quarter, most saw significant negative growth. And many still are uncertain about when the environment will improve. Recently, several hundred Cognizant employees were affected due to bench and performance-related actions in India.
Last year, the Nasdaq-listed IT services firm shrunk the bench time from 60 days to 35 days for those employees who aren’t on billable projects.