Keeping in view the working conditions, growing stress levels, five-day week in most countries, increasing level of automation and availability of banking service 24x7 through mobile, laptop or dedicated e-lounges, the unions have rightly demanded a five-day work week for bank employees. The IBA (Indian Banks’ Association) has in principle accepted the same and recommended it to the Department of Financial Supervision, Ministry of Finance, for its approval.

If the recommendation is accepted and implemented, what will be the implications? A columnist in a leading national newspaper has criticised the proposal, arguing that bankers are well-paid, have regular hours of work and enjoy numerous perks, and he even undermined the challenges and stress bankers face. Chambers of commerce and other trader associations have reportedly submitted letters to not accept two days holidays a week for banks.

Let us look at the impact of bank holiday on second and fourth Saturdays, which came into effect from September 1, 2015. The financial market segments which were open for transactions on Saturdays continue to remain open on all working Saturdays. The RBI continues to operate fixed rate reverse repo as well as the marginal standing facility (MSF) window on all working Saturdays between 7 am and 7.30 pm, as on any normal business day.

The RBI also operates a fixed rate liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) repo window on all working Saturdays between 9.30 am and 10.30 am. Payment systems stopped operating on second and fourth Saturdays and started operating full day on working Saturdays.

Case studies

Is a banker’s job stressful? Many studies across the world have affirmed this is so. Take, for instance, ‘Subjective assessment of banking employees concerning working conditions’, a study carried out by a team of Bulgarian experts, headed by Professor Ivanovich of the National Centre of Public Health Protection, in a large bank that has branches throughout Bulgaria.

About half of the respondents (47 per cent) feel that working conditions damage their health (no gender difference), although only 4 per cent of employees believe that their working conditions are poor.

In ‘A Conceptual Study on Employee Status in the Banking Sector in India’, published in International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts, Prof Amrin Ibrahim Adkar and ProfAftab Anwar Shaikh concluded that “dealing with customers has become an accepted phenomenon in the banking sector. There is dissatisfaction with work life. A problem that affects almost all workers at one time or another, regardless of position or status. Frustration, boredom and anger commonly experienced by employees who are frustrated with their work lives can be costly to both the individual and the organisation.”

To increase efficiency, maintain work-life balance and ensure all employees are highly engaged in their assigned work, Henry Ford, in 1926, standardised the five-day work-week. Gradually it has been adopted by almost all government and non-government organisation globally.

Some of the establishments have even started trying four-day work-week. Workers in Belgium now have the right to switch to a four-day week. However, the four-day week is typically 4x10 hour days.

Dozens of companies in Canada, Australia and Iceland, among others, are experimenting with four-day week as part of the global pilot to support employee wellness, family time, social life, and help address labour shortage.

In the banking industry worldwide, public holidays are more than what is available to bankers in India.

The Central Government, by exercising powers conferred by Section 25 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, should issue a notification declaring all Saturdays as holidays.

The writer is a consultant and ex-banker