Coronavirus | Firm asks staff to take unpaid leave

Firm asks staff to take unpaid leave

As the coronavirus continues to affect more and more countries, one employer has asked staff to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave in an attempt to cope with the illness.

Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific revealed the news this week, reported the BBC, after the airline had already been hit by the effect on passenger demand following several months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

As such, the employer is offering a voluntary special leave scheme to all staff members from March 1 to June 30 2020.

The airline revealed that it hopes to reduce service by about 30% over the next few months, which will include a cut of about 90% in flights to mainland China.

In addition, it stated that preserving cash was ‘key to protecting the business’.

“In view of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and also a significant drop in market demand, we just announced massive capacity cuts yesterday,” Cathay Pacific said in a statement.

“Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this.

“Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme, which will take effect from 1 March and last until 30 June. All employees will have the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave in this period.”

In addition, a video shared to Cathay employees revealed the firm's Chief Executive Augustus Tang asking suppliers to cut prices, to stop hiring new employees and to stop all non-critical spending.

Currently, the number of cases of the coronavirus in China has exceeded 24,300, with 490 deaths reported so far. As a result, a number of other businesses have also chosen to close stores and reduce working hours for staff.

HR Grapevine previously reported that Google had temporarily shut down all of its offices in the country, meanwhile Facebook and Microsoft have also advised its China-based staff to work from home.

However, while some employers are putting in place precautionary measures to support the welfare of staff, one worker claimed she was fired for trying to safeguard her own wellbeing at work.

Earlier this week it was revealed that an employee said she was reprimanded and fired for her decision to wear a mask in the workplace to stop her from contracting the coronavirus.

Image credit: © Cathay Pacific Airways Limited

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