Malaysia's CIMB offers staff 6-month unpaid leave

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 (Reuters) - Malaysian financial services group CIMB has asked its 36,000 employees to consider taking up to six months of unpaid leave as it aims to cut costs in the global economic slowdown, a top official said on Monday.

CIMB is the first major Malaysian company to ask staff to go on unpaid leave.

CIMB Group Chief Executive Nazir Razak said the offer was made last week to its staff in the country's second-largest lender, CIMB Bank BUCM.KL, as well as its units BankThai BT.BK in Thailand and PT Bank CIMB Niaga BNGA.JK in Indonesia.

“In the slower economic environment, we are looking at ways to temporarily reduce our costs. The reception from our staff has been very, very good,” Nazir told reporters at a company event.

He said workers who take up the group’s offer will start their leave from April 1, but this will not affect the bank’s operations.

Nazir said there was no set target on the number of employees accepting the offer and denied the company was cutting staff.

“How can (this) possibly be called a lay-off? We are not instructing anyone to do anything. We are just giving them an option to apply if they wish to take an extended break. Don’t interpret it any other way,” he said. (Reporting by Julie Goh; Writing by Loh Li Lian; Editing by Anshuman Daga)