Budget 2022: Digital Rupee Gets FM’s Greenlight, Can It Be Used for Salary Payouts? 319

By Moumita Bhattacharjee

In her Union Budget 2022 speech on Tuesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced two key highlights – the roll-out of the National Tele Mental Health Programme and Digital Rupee – that find relevance to the HR community. 

The mental health platform has been well received by the fraternity as the pandemic necessitated remote welfare for the employees. It will help remove the stigma around mental health issues as well as make help more accessible to the masses.

Digital Rupee, to be issued by RBI, on the other hand, made us wonder if it could be utilised for salary payouts in the near future. As per an Economic Times story from last year, some techies and a few gig workers are keen to accept a part of or the entire salary in cryptocurrency. But it couldn’t be seen as a possibility as it wasn’t governed by any laws. Now that FM greenlighted digital rupee through RBI, in the coming days there could be a possibility of CTCs being paid in the same channel.

We spoke to a few HR leaders to get their understanding of it. While many of them felt it was too early to comment, there were a few who agreed to a probability of paying salary in digital currency.
Hari TN, Head HR, Bigbasket.com points out that most companies do not pay their employees in physical currency.

“Employees are paid via bank transfers. Whether the underlying asset is a physical currency or a CBDC is therefore irrelevant. So employees who are paid via bank transfers will not see any change. A CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) is an alternative to physical (or paper) currency,” adds Hari TN

Amit Das, Director-HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman Co Ltd., however, doesn’t see any reason why it cannot be leveraged for compensation and rewards for the employees. Digital currency in India will be a legal tender issued by RBI, which could be exchanged with fiat currency at par value, but available only in digital mode. But he justly points out that the biggest factor governing acceptance of digital currency in India will be to have an ecosystem of enablers to facilitate transactions of digital currency.

“India has already taken the giant leap in digitising payments for most services, including the street-side tea shops, which now accepts payment through digital wallets. So basic ingredients and mindset being in place, the digital currency usage and acceptance should not be a challenge. The other challenge will be controlling the circulation of digital currency. We need to understand if the digital currency will be an additive value to currently circulating fiat currency, or will it replace some of the fiat currency. Circulation of currency will impact prices, which in turn will impact the wage bills of organisations,” Das shares. 

Ravi Kumar, People and Culture Senior Leader, Roche Diabetes Care Global Commercial Organisation, on his part would wait to see how it pans out before deciding on whether or not salary payouts in digital rupee is feasible.

 However, he does add, “Benefits are clear here – quick access and easy use for employees and ease of payments by corporates. The challenges can be the acceptance by the market and by people who are skeptical of new technologies.” 

When it comes to cryptocurrencies, Hari TN is against calling it a currency as it isn’t universally accepted but Das believes,

“As progressive business leaders, we should keep an open mind about possibilities and deploy innovative reward mechanisms as long as they provide tangible benefits for all concerned while complying with the regulations. At the same time, we need to act responsibly in choosing a system of value transfer to compensate our employees for their efforts.” 

The industry leaders are playing the waiting game to see how the digital rupee measure announced by FM pans out in the coming days. But it’s safe to say, they don’t rule out the possibility.

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