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Grab asks employees to take voluntary no-pay leave as Covid-19 outbreak batters business

SINGAPORE — With its revenues taking a severe hit from the Covid-19 outbreak, Grab is encouraging its employees to go on voluntary no-pay leave.

Grab said that it might no longer be able to provide its drivers with extra financial support if Singapore’s circuit breaker restrictions extend beyond June 1.

Grab said that it might no longer be able to provide its drivers with extra financial support if Singapore’s circuit breaker restrictions extend beyond June 1.

SINGAPORE — With its revenues taking a severe hit from the Covid-19 outbreak, Grab is encouraging its employees to go on voluntary no-pay leave.

The ride-hailing firm also warned on Wednesday (April 29) that it might no longer be able to provide its drivers with extra financial support if Singapore’s circuit breaker restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus extend beyond June 1.

In a letter to drivers — a copy of which was sent to the media — Grab Singapore head of transport Andrew Chan said the company’s business has been badly hit by the pandemic.

“No one can be sure how long the situation will last, but we are preparing for a long and difficult path ahead,” he wrote.

“As our revenues continue to fall, senior Grab leaders have taken a pay cut of up to 20 per cent, and Grab staff have also been encouraged to take no-pay leave voluntarily.”

When contacted, Grab declined to reveal the number of people it employs in Singapore and how many among them have volunteered to take no-pay leave.

In March last year, it said it had 1,500 staff members here and planned to double its headcount to 3,000 by the end of this year. They will be housed in its new one-north headquarters that was due to be ready by the fourth quarter of this year.

Grab’s announcement on Wednesday comes about a month after it said its senior leaders would take a pay cut of up to 20 per cent to tide the business and its partners over the pandemic.

The circuit breaker movement controls in Singapore, which began on April 7, have meant that most people are staying home and commuting only for essential activities.

As a result, transport rides have continued to plunge by “double-digit percentages”, Mr Chan said. This has decimated the earnings of Grab’s drivers.

Grab declined to disclose the actual decline in ridership.

To plug a shortage of delivery slots and supplement their income, taxi and private-hire car drivers were allowed to take on grocery and food deliveries from last month.

MORE HELP FOR DRIVERS

On Wednesday, Grab extended a slew of support schemes for its driver-partners in tandem with the nationwide extension of the circuit breaker announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on April 21.

These include a cutback on commission fees by at least 50 per cent until June 1.

But Mr Chan warned: “We may no longer be able to provide extra financial support if the circuit breaker is extended past June 1.”

To help its drivers through the extended circuit breaker, Grab will shave 75 per cent off commission fees from May 4 to June 1 for new drivers who rent vehicles from its rental arm GrabRentals. Existing hirers will have their commissions waived completely until May 10.

All other Grab drivers will continue to get a 50 to 55 per cent reduction in commission fees until June 1.

Grab takes a 20 per cent commission for every ride that its drivers complete.

Until May 31, it will also offer drivers who completed at least 200 trips between October and December last year up to S$85 a week. This is in addition to the government-funded support of S$10 a day per vehicle.

Mr Chan said extending the support schemes was not an easy decision, since Grab’s business had taken a bad hit.

“It has taken us a few days to confirm this for you, as we needed to reroute some funding,” he told the company’s driver-partners.

To finance this round of financial help, Grab moved funds from other Grab driver-partner benefit schemes — such as rewards for top-rated drivers, which have been put on hold — and relied on voluntary donations from Grab employees, which the firm matched dollar-for-dollar.

Thanking its drivers who continue to “keep Singapore moving and well-fed”, Mr Chan said: “It will take our collective will and efforts to beat this virus and emerge from this crisis stronger together.”

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Covid-19 coronavirus circuit breaker Grab Grab driver

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