How Kenyan employers are cushioning staff over coronavirus effects

By Fay Ngina | Monday, Mar 23rd 2020 at 14:52
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There's panic among Kenyan employees concerning the future of their jobs and livelihood as cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country continue to rise. On Sunday, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced an additional of 8 more cases bringing the total to 15.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has caused over 14,000 deaths worldwide, has seen many employees work from home in a bid to curb the spread of the disease. As other employees are working remotely, some have been forced to take unpaid leave or even pay cuts.

However, in Kenya, employers such as Elgon Kenya and Vitafoam, have come up with ways to help their employees cater to their basic needs and make life much simpler.

Bimal Kantaria, Managing Director at Elgon Kenya, says the company has resorted to providing employees with basic needs such as sugar, wheat flour, cooking oil, tea, and emergency packages to help ease the situation.

Kantaria says they'll be giving their over 600 employees a Sh2,500 package for a family of five from Chandarana foodplus, terming the move as 'goodwill gesture and supporting employees.'

The MD also says they are working with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) to come up with solutions on providing transport for the employees as matatus have hiked their fare prices following a directive by the government to carry fewer passengers.

When asked about the working shifts, Kantaria says nothing has changed since the employees cannot afford not to come to work.

"We are working the same; employees say they cannot go home since they'll be no food. We have arranged working space for them and also offered training on how to work. We are working really hard with the government to see how the private sector can help. So far, we are happy with the government efforts," says the Elgon Kenya Managing director.

On Friday, March 20, Vitafoam company sent a memo to its staff outlining the plans they are putting in place to help them get by during the coronavirus period.

In the memo, Vitafoam informed employees of its decision to support them with essential basic needs such as sugar and maize flour.

"As we brace for tough challenges ahead, we realize the impact this has on your financial position and would like to share with you in your burden and have prepared a contingency package to cater to some of your needs."

"The package contains food items such as sugar, rice maize flour, wheat flour, cooking oil, etc. and sanitary items such as toilet rolls, bio soaps, sanitizers, etc.," read part of the memo.

The Vitafoam Chief Operations Officer Sharad Barot revealed to Ureport that the exercise commenced on Monday, March 23, at around 1 pm.

"We have already given 50 percent of the items to our staff. We are given them out in a bunch of 50 people at a time since we have 300 employees. We are conducting this exercise for now since we have realized our employees have to dig deeper into their pockets because of coronavirus. However, we give back to the employees every year to appreciate them" said Barot.

The Vitafoam COO says the employees are working in one shift, but for those who had many leave days were asked to go home but will still be paid.

"We only have one shift. Those who have a lot of leave days have been asked to go but still paid. Some are going for ten days, and when they come back, the others will go, "Barot added.

The management also urged its employees to observe all health protocols put in place by the government.

Last week, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge issued a statement on the measures banks are taking to mitigate the adverse economic effects of coronavirus. 

Njoroge stated banks have agreed to extend the payment period for personal loans to provide relief for borrowers.

"The banks will seek to provide relief to borrowers on their personal loans. 28% of loans are personal loans. To provide relief on personal loans, banks will review requests from borrowers for extension of their loan for a period of up to one year. To initiate this process, borrowers should contact their respective banks," read one of the measures by CBK.

Also, Governor Njoroge added that all the money that will be coming outside banks would be quarantined for a week in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

"We do not want this crisis to become a financial crisis. All cash that will be coming out of banks will be quarantined for one-week," he stated.

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