Potentially bringing joy to more than 1.5 million bank employees in anticipation of the 2024 general elections, it appears that the government is poised to greenlight a transition to a five-day working week for them by December.
At present, both public and private sector banks operate on the first and third Saturdays of each month. Should the proposed changes gain approval, all Saturdays would be designated as holidays under Section 25 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.
Following extensive discussions between the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) and employee unions, the IBA endorsed the idea last month to declare all Saturdays as holidays for bank personnel. This proposal has now been submitted to the finance ministry for deliberation.
An individual familiar with the matter stated, “The government seems largely receptive to the proposal,” while also mentioning ongoing dialogues with bank management, including private banks, as well as industry bodies like FICCI and CII, to address their apprehensions.
Although certain bank managements have expressed worries about potential disruptions to their operations and productivity, the trade and industry sectors also harbor concerns about potential impacts on their businesses and credit flows.
According to the most recent available data, the banking sector employs 1.54 million individuals, evenly distributed between public and private sector banks, encompassing payment banks and small finance banks. Moreover, there are approximately 95,000 workers in Regional Rural Banks and an additional 96,000 in cooperative banks across the nation. It is plausible that the five-day week structure would also extend to cover RRBs.
All these banks may need to implement measures to ensure that the heightened number of holidays doesn’t adversely affect banking operations within the country.
As part of the arrangement for a five-day working week, it’s conceivable that the daily working hours for banks might be extended by 45 minutes, compensating for any potential loss of productivity.