The reason is apparently the change in leave schedule from April 2003 onwards. Before April 2003, the annual holiday pattern in SBI followed the calendar-year schedule i.e. January-December. However, after April 2003, SBI changed it according to financial year i.e. April-March.
SBI is the only public sector bank to introduce this leave schedule. However, this change has become a headache for the top officials of SBI at the branch-level. Earlier, employees exhausted their leaves by December. With the changed schedule in place, they are availing themselves of the same in March, which is a vital month because of the account-closing, a senior SBI official said.
He said that the difficulty is maximum at the branch level, where employees have to perform both accounting works and customers services. Several SBI branches are working with lean staff strength. This has affected customer service also, the official said.
He admitted that the number of complaints related to customer service has increased sharply in March. Most complaints are related to opening of new accounts. The customers are being told to come after the fiscal-end to open new accounts, he said.
When contacted, SBIs chief general manager (Bengal circle) KC Raut said that the bank has made the leave rules flexible for the employees to cope with the problem. If we find that an employee is indispensable, we reject his leave petition and allow him to carry forward the leave. This is being done even in case of casual leave, Mr Raut said.
The SBI Staff Association general secretary, Ashoke Dutta, admitted that leave petitions are maximum in March. However, with the extent of computerisation that SBI has undergone, such tendency should not affect banking operations. I feel that negligence in customer service is an individual problem for an individual employee, he said.