With bank employees continuing to service customers at branches amidst surging Covid-19 cases, banks have initiated special measures to ensure their safety and provide medical help.
With daily Covid -19 caseload at over three lakh, lenders have rolled out more measures this time around, than last year beyond, rostering of employees and limiting banking hours to 10 am to 2 pm.
“We are using a lot of analytics to identify containment areas, high risk areas and are using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for rostering of employees. We are shifting transactions digitally. We have to understand that the number one priority is to keep everybody safe,” said Anup Bagchi, Executive Director, ICICI Bank.
HDFC Bank has converted three of its training centres based out of Bhubaneswar, Pune, and Gurugram into isolation facilities for Covid positive employees.
“These facilities have been equipped with first line assistance and will have round the clock nurses and visiting doctors. Immediate medical help from a nearby hospital will be made available if required,” it said in a recent statement.
Last week, Axis Bank released a detailed four-page document ‘With You’ that lists helpline numbers, resources, and confidential counselling services for employees and their dependents.
“Our current focus is on employee health and safety. At the start of the crisis last year, we had taken a call that we would transition to a hybrid work model. In regions we are calibrating presence in response to regulatory guidance and implementing rostering where WFH is not feasible,” said Rajkamal Vempati – EVP and Head, Human Resources, Axis Bank.
Bankers point out that while banking is an essential service, bank employees are not treated as frontline workers.
“It is an extremely unfortunate situation. Had bankers been able to get vaccinated, many of the deaths would have been prevented,” Soumya Datta, General Secretary, All India Bank Officers’ Confederation.
Industry estimates peg that there have been about 1,000 Covid-19 related deaths and lakhs bank employees being infected.
“We are an essential services… we are all exposed (to customers). We don’t have the luxury. But we are not allowed vaccinations, not allowed to board trains, not allowed to board buses. So, what kind of essential services we are? More push should be there,” Bagchi had told reporters in a media call on April 29.
The Indian Banks’ Association has advised banks to curtail working hours and also said that they should only carry out essential services at branches including cash deposits and withdrawals, clearing of cheques, remittances and government transactions.
But Datta said many states are yet to allow this move. He also pointed out that about 30 per cent bank branches in the country are single officer branches. In such branches, it is difficult to do rostering as there is no back up officer available.
Earlier this month, the Finance Ministry had written to the Ministries of Home Affair and Health and Family Welfare for vaccination against Covid-19 of employees of all banks and the National Payments Corporation of India, irrespective of their age, on an urgent basis.