Banks asked to curb work hours from 10am-2pm

The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has advised banks to restrict working hours from 10am to 2pm in view of the surge in covid-19 cases across India

Faced with the unabated rise in COVID-19 infections, the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has advised banks to restrict working hours between 10 am to 2 pm, showed a letter issued by the industry body.

“We are going through the challenging period of resurgence of the mutant virus with several states reporting record high daily numbers of new infections and there are serious concerns about the economic activities,” IBA said in a letter to State Level Banking Committee (SLBC) convenors on 21 April. Mint has seen a copy of the letter.

The IBA organized a special managing committee meeting on 21 April and decided to issue advisory on some additional steps that can be taken by banks in addition to the steps mentioned in standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued last year.

“Unlike last year the states are now issuing their guidelines for breaking the chain of COVID-19 depending on gravity of the local situation, banks may have to follow different COVID protocols in different states and districts,” it said.

According to the letter, banks will continue to provide four mandatory services of accepting deposits, cash withdrawals, remittance and government businesses. The SLBCs of each state and union territory will review the situation in their respective locations and decide on additional services that can be provided under existing situation, it said.

“Employees may be called on rotational basis or be allowed to work from home as the case may be depending on the nature of job, staff position and size of the establishment, ideally 50% of the employees may be called for “in person” duty and on rotation basis,” it said.

In fact, some SLBCs have already decided to implement shorter banking hours of 10 am to 2 pm as against 10 am to 4 pm. For instance, the Bihar SLBC has said that pregnant women and staff members with co-morbidities or physical disabilities will work from home.

Meanwhile, the IBA said in its recent letter that SLBCs can contact the chief medical officers and other senior level government officials to arrange mass vaccination for employees at office premises or at suitable places which are mutually convenient within the state protocols.

“Doorstep banking activities should be encouraged,” it said.

Besides, banks should also explore arrangement with hospitals to provide all emergency medical facilities required for the staff in the event of COVID-19 infection and also for staff requiring intensive medical attention, the letter said.

The IBA had written to the ministry on 1 February requesting inclusion of bankers in the priority list of vaccinations, citing, among other things, the new mutant variant of COVID-19. Following the letter, the finance ministry requested the ministry of home affairs and the health ministry to consider issuing guidelines for priority vaccinations of bankers and employees of the National Payments Corp. of India (NPCI).

Around 600 employees of state-owned banks, private banks, foreign banks, payments banks, and small finance banks have lost their lives during the pandemic, Sunil Mehta, chief executive of the association wrote in the letter.

Meanwhile, the government has allowed all adults to be vaccinated starting 1 May as part of the third phase of the vaccination programme.

Bank unions have also called for limiting working hours for bankers till the situation improves. The All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) called for restriction of banking services only to basic, essential banking; introduction of cluster hub banking and identifying few branches of each bank in each locality.

“We are sure that the above measures will reduce the exposure faced by employees and break the chain of infections to a great extent,” said C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary of AIBEA.

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