Covid: Bank branches to reduce business hours, offer basic services

Topics Banks | Coronavirus | corona

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With coronavirus infections crossing 300,000 a day, banks have decided to shorten branch hours and cut staff attendance to 50 per cent. The decision was taken by the Indian Banks’ Association in a meeting on Wednesday and the standard operating procedures have been communicated to banks in the wake of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic while observing the infection rate among bankers is ‘alarming’.

Bank branches will now work from 10 am to 2 pm, the bank body said in a communication to the lenders.

The four mandatory functions that will be provided by the banks are - accepting deposits, cash withdrawals, remittance and government businesses.

“Working hours (business hours) of the banks could be restricted to 10am-2pm. Door step banking activities should be encouraged,” the IBA letter to banks said.

“Considering the fact that there is no nationwide lockdown this time and states are issuing relevant guidelines depending on the gravity of the situation in respective states, the MC [managing committee of IBA] has advised that … the State Level Bankers’ Committees (SLBC) could modify the SOPs as per the prevailing situation and needs in respective states,” the letter which has been reviewed by Business Standard said.

The SOP said that the employees can be called on rotational basis or be allowed to work from home as the case may be depending on the nature of job. “…ideally 50 per cent of the employees may be called for “in person” duty and on rotation basis,” it said. IBA has also urged employees to take vaccination for themselves as well as for family members.

The IBA directions come after the bank employees’ unions wrote a letter earlier this month requesting fresh SOPs in the wake of a surge in daily infections. Last year the pandemic claimed lives of 600 bankers, and data compiled by IBA showed the percentage of death in the banking industry is higher in comparison to the entire country.

The IBA has now asked the banks to also explore arrangements with hospitals to provide all emergency medical facilities required for the staff in the event of COVID infection and also for staff requiring intensive medical attention.

“All SOPs regarding social distancing, management of the customers, health and sanitation, wearing masks and gloves etc which are highlighted in our previous SOPs should be strictly followed in all bank premises,” the letter said.

The association said banking activities were in a reviving mode but with this sudden resurgence of the mutant coronavirus, banking and bank employees are facing the impact. “Infection rates among the bank employees is quite alarming,” it observed.

In a separate communication, the SLBC convenor bank of Maharashtra state, which is Bank of Maharashtra, has directed its member banks to function with only 15% of the total attendance or 5, whichever is higher. These directions were made in the wake of stringent measures announced by the Maharashtra government which has come into effect from today and will remain effective till 7 am, May 1.


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