As rooms fall vacant, hotels ask employees to go on leave

Chitra Narayanan New Delhi | Updated on March 19, 2020 Published on March 19, 2020

With occupancy dropping to shattering levels in the wake of Covid-19, hotels are being forced to take drastic cost-cutting action, some of which could cause pain to employees. The stately Imperial at New Delhi has reportedly started furloughing employees.

Agitated employees at the swish Imperial Hotel in Delhi said on March 17 they were asked to sign applications for leave without pay for a month. According to the employees, who understandably did not wish to go on record, the carefully-worded letter, copies of which were not given to them, also said that they would have to consult with the management when they could resume duty.


When contacted, Vijay Wanchoo, Senior Executive Vice-President, Imperial Hotel, responded: “In light of this unprecedented health crisis, which has now been declared a pandemic, the Government and other authorities have directed that hospitality businesses including restaurants, spas, banquets and supporting areas are to be closed with immediate effect. While various businesses have subsequently opted for layoffs or had started similar exercises earlier this month, we have refrained from taking these measures until now. In deep consultation with all team members, we have accepted leave applications from employees looking to prevent community transmission by staying at home.”

Wanchoo expressed confidence that the situation would improve in a couple of months and the team would be back at full strength.

Globally, the Marriott chain, which employs over 176,000 worldwide, has started furloughing people and tens and thousands of employees in the US could be affected, report agencies.

Monitoring the situation

However, in India, most hotel chains, when contacted, said they were monitoring the situation and working out options to cause as little heartache as possible to the employees.

This includes rostering, asking staff to take available leave up to March 31 till when restaurants and bars in many places have been ordered to be shut, and re-deploying them into hotels that are in the pre-opening stage.

“Wherever employees had leave due, we asked them to take it,” said Rattan Keswani, deputy Managing Director, Lemon Tree Hotels.

At Hyatt Delhi, where two restaurants including The China Kitchen, have closed, non-essential staff have been asked to take leave. The restaurants, however, are providing delivery services.

Significantly, in Delhi, three hotels at the Aerocity — Red Fox, Lemon Tree Premier and Ibis — have been made into “holding zones” for asymptomatic travellers returning from coronavirus-affected zones by the Delhi government. Travellers advised to go into self-isolation can pay and use (₹3,100) rooms in these hotels.

Industry leaders, however, said that if demand continues to be low over a long period, they might be forced to look at hard options, including pay-cuts and layoffs.

Published on March 19, 2020

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