Emirates airline asks employees to take unpaid coronavirus leave

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - 's Emirates has asked staff to use up annual vacation days or take unpaid leave to minimise their chances of contracting coronavirus and the airline cuts flights to certain destinations following the global outreak.

An internal email by Emirates Group asked employees at its 100,000-worker base to consider taking unpaid leave to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"A particular challenge for us right now is dealing with the impact of Covid-19," the email, circulated on Sunday said.

"We've seen a measurable slow-down in business across our brands and a need for flexibility in the way we work."

The group asked those who have "accrued a significant balance of annual leave" to consider taking paid leave.

The email said those in non-operational roles who do not have enough days to take off are to take voluntary unpaid.

This option may also become available to staff in operational roles.

Read also: Applying essential oil to anus 'cures coronavirus': Iranian cleric

"In all cases we strongly encourage you to take up this opportunity if you have the support and approval of your line manager," the email said.

An Emirates spokesperson confirmed the email's authenticity to UAE-based news outlet Gulf News.

"We can confirm the email was sent to our employees around unpaid leave. Point to note – the leave we are asking employees to take is voluntary. It is at the employee's discretion if they want to take it or not."

Regionwide crisis

All six GCC states - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - have taken measures to curb the spread of the  virus, including cutting off transport links with neighbouring Iran, where some 43 people have died.

Saudi Arabia also banned Muslim pilgrims from travelling to perform the "umrah", or minor pilgrimage, to the holy city of Mecca.

Read more: Kuwait cancels National Day celebrations as coronavirus cases increase

The move is likely to deprive the kingdom of billions of dollars in spending by millions of pilgrims and also creates uncertainty over the annual hajj pilgrimage scheduled for July.

The health crisis threatens to further undercut Gulf economies, which are battling a downturn and struggling to wean themselves from a decades-old energy addiction.

The Gulf states count China as their main trading partner and crude buyer, soaking up about a fifth of their oil.

But China's energy demand has sagged as authorities lock down millions of people to prevent the spread of the illness, dubbed COVID-19, with major knock-on effects for a global economy that is dependent on a buoyant China.

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