Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Finance Ministry relaxes govt banks' staff promotion norms

With public sector banks staring at huge staff retirement over the next few years, the government has decided to relax the norms for promotions for the current financial year. The finance ministry has allowed the banks to deviate from the prescribed promotion norms, with the approval of their board, so that more employees can become eligible for promotions.

However, banks will still need prior approval of the government for a change in guidelines on five critical aspects such as minimum experience requirement for promotion to next scale, marks in annual appraisal, rural/semi-urban experience, length of service in specialised cadre, and zone of consideration

Notably, even in these, some degree of freedom would be given to banks. For instance, board of banks can provide further relaxation of three months in minimum experience requirement. This relaxation has been provided recognising that if a person was last promoted in June, he would not be eligible for promotion at the beginning of the next financial year for not having completed a year.

“On some operational issues regarding promotions, we have given them more freedom. But on core issues, there will be uniformity in guidelines across the banks. On core elements of the promotion policy, 80-85 per cent of the norms stipulated last year would continue,” said a finance ministry official.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has termed the present decade as retirement decade. In the next 10 years, government-run banks have to hire in lakhs to fill up retirements and natural attrition, to keep their branches and other operations running. Also, with RBI set to allow new banks in the country, the public sector banks is likely to be a favourite hunting ground for talent for private sector players.

The ministry has decided to give bank boards some flexibility to decide whether the stipulated tenure of rural/semi-urban experience is required to be continuous or in parts. While the condition for rural posting will remain unchanged, banks can relax condition in cases where, for instance, a person was transferred from the rural office barely months before completing his tenure, but had two stints in the area, thereby meeting the tenure requirement.

The bank board can relax the requirement of marks in the annual performance appraisal ratings to an average of 75 per cent marks with minimum 60 per cent in the preceding five years. They can also relax the zone of consideration to include all officers promoted on the same date or batch.

“The moment you have too many conditions, that would mean exclusion. The new guidelines will not exclude people and more employees can be considered for promotions,” said the official. In the circular issued to the banks on April 4, the ministry has said that the reasons for deviations from the guidelines would have to be properly recorded in the minutes of board meetings.

The government, through its circulars in 1986 and 1987, had laid down guidelines for promotion in public sector banks. However, banks gradually started deviating from these norms in the pretext of fine-tuning them. This forced the government to issue revised guidelines in December 2011. Since then, several relaxations have been made in the norms to meet HR requirements of banks.

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