For a steel company having around 18-20 million tonne capacity, SAIL has three to four times more regular employees than its peers in private sector.
At the insistence of Union steel minister Dharmendra Pradhan, state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL) has introduced a scheme for sabbatical leave for all its regular employees who have completed 10 years in the company, primarily aimed at cost-cutting.
The company, however, is hard selling the scheme to its eligible employees as an opportunity to hone up skills, write books or compose music, discharge familial and social obligations, pursue hobbies and entrepreneurial ventures, among others. As on January 1, SAIL had 72,246 employees.
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During the course of the sabbatical leave, which can be for a maximum of three years, executives opting for the scheme will not get any salary or perks other than medical benefits for the employee and her family; while those working at the plants and already having company-provided accommodations will be entitled to retain them and avail medical benefits.
“Without resigning from the job, the employees can experiment with new ventures or follow up their pursuits of other choice during the period. Under the scheme, the employee on completion of the sabbatical leave will be allowed to rejoin the service in the substantive post,” an official said. Though the scheme is open to all regular employees of SAIL, those employees who are already on lien/deputation with other companies will not be permitted to avail sabbatical leave. Those who have rendered a minimum of 10 years of continuous service, including the training period, would be eligible to avail the scheme.
A scheme for sabbatical leave, similar to the present one launched in December, was in force at SAIL between 1999 and 2004, but only 130 employees had opted for it, forcing the management to terminate the clumsy, less remunerative process. The present scheme comes with no time-frame.
The chairman of the company reserves the right to extent or limit the period of operation of the scheme or to withdraw and re-introduce the scheme. He also reserves the right to modify, alter or amend the scheme.
Other state-run companies like Power Grid Corporation are running at present sabbatical scheme like that of SAIL. For a steel company having around 18-20 million tonne capacity, SAIL has three to four times more regular employees than its peers in private sector.
However, SAIL has been constantly trying to prune the number. Apart from around 3,500 annual retirements, 482 employees opted for the company’s voluntary retirement scheme in 2018-19. All such activities have brought down SAIL’s employee expenses to Rs 1,963 crore in the July-September quarter of the current fiscal from Rs 2,160 crore in the same quarter last fiscal, registering a 4% decline.
Incidentally, SAIL reported Rs 343-crore loss during the July-September quarter. As per the circular issued by SAIL, during the period of sabbatical leave, an employee can engage directly or indirectly in any trade or businesses or undertake any other employment or negotiate for taking an employment with the permission of the competent authority.
They will also be able to take up any overseas assignment. But, the employee would not be allowed to join any of SAIL joint ventures or subsidiaries. The employee will also not be allowed to have any business dealing with SAIL or its joint ventures or subsidiaries, individually or as an employee of another firm.
“The employee shall not take part in elections for holding public positions such as councillor, MLA, MP, etc., during the period of sabbatical leave,” the circular said. The period of sabbatical leave will not be counted for annual increment and the next annual increment.