Banks turn to sabbaticals for talent attraction and retention

SINGAPORE: Major banks are implementing progressive leave policies, including much wider use of sabbaticals, to respond to the intensifying competition in talent attraction and retention.

For staff who have been with Citi Singapore at least five years, the company now allows a month of paid leave for their volunteer efforts without compromising their annual leave. Called "giving back leave", eligible employees volunteer with a registered charitable group, with Citi paying their full salary and maintaining their medical and health insurance.

For personal interests and wellness, eligible full-time staff also enjoy a partially paid sabbatical programme with up to 12 weeks off, while still receiving 25% of their monthly base pay. This sabbatical may be taken up to two times for each long-term employee.

HSBC provides for up to a year of sabbaticals, with the first month paid. Eligibility is based on individual performance and a minimum tenure. The bank’s volunteering leave is two days each year.

The unpaid sabbatical leave scheme has been at DBS Bank since 2019 for employees who have been with the bank for at least five continuous years. It can be taken for up to three months.

Employees with at least five years at OCBC Bank may take up to three consecutive months of unpaid sabbatical leave for volunteering or other personal reasons. The approval is still based on operational requirements. Employees continue to be covered for paid medical and hospitalisation benefits during the sabbatical, and their positions remain.

Adrian Tan from the Singapore HR Institute, noted that banks now compete with other financial industry players, such as fintech, in terms of talent acquisition.

"Every bank as an employer has to ramp up their attraction and retention efforts, especially if their branding is not as well known as their competitors'," he said.

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