How Kenyan employers are cushioning staff over coronavirus effects
By Fay Ngina
| March 23rd 2020
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
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
"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
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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