In the wake of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, PSU and private banks have changed the timing of their working hours and state-owned State Bank of India have introduced new rules. The development comes at a time when most states and their respective districts are under lockdown or lockdown-like curfews to curb the chain of transmission. However, as banking has been considered an essential service, and hence banks are operational for shorter duration every day.
Indian Banks’ Association writes letter to State Level Banking Committee
Earlier, the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) wrote a letter to the State Level Banking Committee (SLBC) heads and said-
“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.”
New restricted working hours
After careful consideration, reports are stating that the IBA has issued guidelines and have advised banks to restrict working hours between 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. This includes PSU banks such as State Bank, Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank as well as private financial institutes like ICICI, Axis Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, etc.
However, it should be noted that these are suggested guidelines, and its ultimately the decision of the State Level Banking Committee heads to implement the rules in their regions depending on the number of COVID-19 cases there and other factors. But one should just remember that most banks will be functioning from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. These working hours will stay in effect till May 31.
“Employees may be called on rotational basis”
The SLBC have also suggested banks to only provide 4 essential services: accepting deposits, provide withdrawals, government related business & remittance. In its letter, IBA said that SLBC will be reviewing the conditions of their states and according to them, will decide if they can add more services or not.
The letter further 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.”
SBI Issues new banking guidelines
Meanwhile, state owned PSU State Bank of India has revised their guidelines and rules in the wake of the COVID-19. According to reports, the largest Indian lending entity said-
“Your safety comes first! Why step out when you can bank from the comfort of your home? Use our #InternetBanking facility and avail a host of essential banking services. Visit: onlinesbi.com.”
Earlier, the bank had also said that its customers need not visit bank branches to fill and submit their KYC details. In a move that will further digitize the banking system in the country, SBI will now accept emails with relevant details to complete the KYC process. The financial lender in a tweet had said-
“You may scan and email your KYC documents on the branch email address only if KYC updation is due in your account and the branch has notified you for the same. Please note to send the email from the email ID you have registered with your bank account.”
PSU Banking heads meeting with RBI Chief Shaktikanta Das
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the RBI chief Shaktikanta Das headed a virtual meeting which was attended by top PSU banking officials. While most of these meetings have agendas such as capital restructuring or bad loans, the agenda of this meeting was graver. PSU bank officials made RBI chief aware of the rising number of COVID-19 cases among their staff.
14-22% of frontline staff COVID-19 infected
According to BloombergQuint, Das was made aware of the fact that 14-22% of the PSU bank frontline staff has been infected by the virus. To this, RBI Governor Shaktikanta offered his condolences and advised the bank chiefs to put certain protocols in place that will save staffers from exposure to the virus. Das also said that the Centre considers bank employees as front-line workers and thus, is planning to get bankers vaccinated on priority.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, banking services remained exempted from the respective lockdowns that were imposed in various states. The same had transpired during the first wave of the pandemic when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a nation-wide lockdown. Due to this exemption, banking officials are constantly at risk of being carriers of virus.
Earlier this month, Uday Kotak from Kotak Mahindra had announced how the bank had lost 17 banking officials in April. The number may not seem a big one, but to put it in perspective, one should note that the company had lost equal number of employees in the entire previous financial year.