Coronavirus update

Mar 27, 2020 |

NFSP

The following is the latest update from the NFSP on the coronavirus situation as of 4pm 27 March 2020.

 

Headline information (updated 27 March)

 

Support for the self-employed.

Yesterday (Thursday 26 March), the Chancellor announced support measures for self-employed people to help protect earnings during the coronavirus crisis.

The NFSP is examining what the announced measures will mean for subpostmasters with the intention of providing a tailored summary for NFSP members. However, this is proving to be a complex task as there are many variables and different circumstances to consider – as well as areas where further detail may be required on top of the information government has provided so far.

With that in mind, we will update you as soon as we are able to provide a substantive summary tailored to subpostmasters.

A general summary of the measures announced yesterday is available HERE

Elsewhere, all NFSP members should ensure they have familiarised themselves with the key info we shared earlier in the week – as follows:

Post offices are listed in the government’s guidelines as ‘essential services’ and can remain open during the current ‘lockdown’. See HERE

Subpostmasters and their post office staff have been be classified as ‘critical workers’ (also referred to as ‘key workers’) See HERE

However, because the vast majority of sub post offices are attached to a retail offer, there are layers of complexity relating to staying open and we advise all NFSP members to review our urgent update from Tuesday 24 March HERE which addresses two key questions:

  • Is the rest of your business (besides the post office) an ‘essential service’?

 

  • What is the most appropriate way of managing staff and resources at this time?

 

Support from the NFSP (updated 26 March)

We are here to help you through this difficult period and we encourage you to get in touch with us.

If you are not already, you should join your local branch and/or regional NFSP WhatsApp groups. These are a good place to get the latest info and advice on the current coronavirus situation (and to keep in touch with the NFSP and other members in your area). Speak to your Branch or Regional Secretary about joining – or email us at communications@nfsp.org.uk

We have a team taking calls during business hours on a range of issues. NFSP members shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch on 01273 452324.

By calling us, all NFSP members can receive professional advice on key issues relating to:

  • Staffing and your responsibilities as an employer - including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (option 1 if you call us).
  • Financial, landlord, rental and other property-related issues (option 2 if you call us).

We are providing daily updates to members, branch and regional representatives and staff.

Where possible, we are holding virtual regional meetings so members can catch up with members and NFSP representatives together in an online setting (as face-to-face meetings have been postponed in line with recommended social distancing measures). Contact your Regional Secretary or Regional Non-Executive Director for more information.

We have produced a summary of the various financial support measures the government are introducing for businesses in response to the coronavirus. The summary can be accessed via the NFSP website HERE

 

What else should you be aware of? (updated 27 March)

We are speaking with Post Office Ltd (PO) on a daily basis and monitoring Royal Mail’s activities closely to ensure information is shared appropriately for the benefit of the network.

There are several specific issues you should be aware of:

  • Remuneration. Many subpostmasters are concerned about their income. March’s remuneration will be based on February’s transactions and therefore unaffected by the coronavirus. April’s remuneration will be based on transactions up to 25 March and the NFSP understands that, although overall transaction numbers were up on previous years, the product mix may have changed and that could have an impact on April’s remuneration. As such the NFSP are continuing to discuss with both PO and government the need for providing financial support for subpostmasters.

 

  • Financial support for subpostmasters. We have made a request to PO for the provision of financial support to subpostmasters whose businesses close due to coronavirus. These discussions are still ongoing.

 

  • Falling retail income for non-convenience store sub post offices. We are aware that many colleagues are seeing a drop in their retail income due to the coronavirus. This is particularly the case for non-convenience stores. By staying open to serve their communities, these subpostmasters are facing financial difficulties. The NFSP is feeding this point into discussions with PO and government.

 

  • Postal services are ‘essential services’. The NFSP has heard from a handful of members who are questioning whether they should be continuing to offer certain Post Office services – such as online shopping returns – as they do not consider these to be of sufficient importance in the current climate. The NFSP’s position on this is as follows: You should continue to offer the full range of Post Office services to customers. The government has classified postal services as ‘essential’ – this applies to all services, not a selection of these. Many small businesses rely on post offices for sending goods and for the return of goods; and as a network many of us rely on these small businesses for mails income. Of course, health and safety are of paramount importance at the moment, but the coronavirus situation will eventually end and we should not jeopardise the fruitful relationships we have with our customers.

 

  • Protective hygiene support from PO. The NFSP understands that all independent offices will receive £50 from PO in April towards purchasing hand sanitisers/gloves etc. PO are also in the process of purchasing screens for open plan counters. Some subpostmasters have taken the initiative on this already and put screens in their offices themselves. PO are willing for a reasonable invoice to be submitted to them for reimbursement.

 

  • Anti-bacterial wipes. We understand that many subpostmasters are using anti-bacterial wipes to disinfect surfaces, keypads etc. Coronavirus is not a bacterium so you must use a disinfectant product that kills virusesg. Dettol or an alcohol-based product. Some anti-bac products may also be disinfectants, so check the label/small print to see if the products you are using kill viruses as well as bacteria.

 

  • Customers not adhering to self-isolation/social-distancing guidelines. Many subpostmasters are concerned about this issue and PO have produced posters for subpostmasters to use (available on One Post Office). The NFSP is reviewing these to see if further materials would be of use to our members. PO have also shared examples of what some subpostmasters are doing to ensure customers practise appropriate social distancing HERE

 

  • Subpostmasters in ‘at risk’ groups. We are still discussing with PO what subpostmasters who are pregnant, aged 70+ or who have an underlying health condition should do and what support will be available for them should they be forced to close their offices (see below for further information).

 

  • Cash in transit & REMs. We are monitoring whether REMs will be impacted and what contingency measures will be put into place. The current status is that cash in transit is operating ‘as normal’.

 

We have also written to Paul Scully, Minister for Postal Affairs, to highlight the challenges subpostmasters are facing at this time and request that government ensures that the post office network is adequately supported through this crisis.

 

Your staff (updated 25 March)

If you employ staff in your business, then you should ensure they are aware of the instructions for self-isolation and familiarise yourself with the relevant guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (see the NFSP’s urgent update from 24 March – specifically question 2) What is the most appropriate way of managing staff and resources at this time?

If any of your staff exhibit a high temperature or a new continuous cough, then you should instruct them to leave work and self-isolate for 14 days.

Certain groups of people are considered to be more vulnerable – those who are pregnant, aged 70 or over, or have a pre-existing health condition. However, there are currently no instructions that these people should avoid coming into work – so you should use your discretion as an employer to advise your staff about staying healthy and safe.

If you have any questions about your staff or your responsibilities as an employer in light of the coronavirus, you can speak to an expert adviser at the NFSP’s partner organisation HR:4UK. Call NFSP HQ on 01273 452324 (option 1) to be put through.

 

Subpostmasters in ‘at risk’ groups (updated 23 March)

We have heard from several NFSP members who are in an ‘at risk’ group (those who are pregnant, aged 70+, or have an underlying health condition) and are unsure of how to act.

Current government instructions are for people in ‘at risk’ groups to stay at home and avoid unnecessary, close contact with other people for up to 12 weeks.

The NFSP is looking into this issue as a matter of urgency and we will share information about how subpostmasters who are ‘at risk’ should act and what support will be available to them if/when they are required to self-isolate.

Your contract with Post Office Ltd will not be affected if you need to close or reduce your hours due to the coronavirus. You can report closures, or changes to your opening hours online by logging into One Post Office. See HERE

 

Royal Mail (updated 20 March)

RE international mail. Royal Mail (RM) report that customers can expect some delays on a country by country basis (see HERE). Priority mail is still to be accepted and posted as normal.

Since Thursday 19 March 2020 onwards, RM will no longer guarantee delivery by 1pm the next working day. RM will still prioritise Special Delivery parcels and letters and will aim to deliver these by 1pm or before the end of day. The Special Delivery Guaranteed by 9am service remains unchanged; RM still guarantee to deliver by 9am.

 P739 offices or any offering Local Collect are recommended not to hand the pen or form to customers and should instead themselves write the name of the person collecting the item together with the date and time.

Public Health England (PHE) advises there is no perceived increase in risk for handling post or freight from affected areas.

RM says deliveries to Iran and Kuwait are suspended and the whole of Italy is now in the yellow zone with accompanying precautionary measures in place. For the full list of international incidents please click: Royal Mail country incident bulletin.

 

Support for temporary subpostmasters (updated 19 March)

The NFSP has spoken to PO about support for temporary operators. PO have stated that they will aim to support temporary operators in the same way as other (non-temporary) subpostmasters in the support they provide.

Other support for subpostmasters in the event of closure (updated 18 March)

  • Employment Support Allowance (ESA): If you are adversely impacted by the current situation, as a self-employed individual, you are eligible to claim this allowance. For further details please see HERE

 

  • Insurance: Check the terms of your insurance to see what is covered and what restrictions apply in relation to ‘interruption of business’.

 

Continuing trading (updated 17 March)

Current guidance is for you to continue trading as normal unless you are required to self-isolate or you cannot remain open as your staff are unable to come into work due to coronavirus.

The government have just announced that self-isolation is required for anyone who develops any of the following symptoms:

  • A high temperature
  • A new continuous cough (coughing repeatedly)

People living alone should self-isolate for 7 days from when their symptoms started.

For people living with others – if any person within a household has symptoms of coronavirus, all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.

 

NFSP Annual Conference (updated 17 March)

Due to the coronavirus, the NFSP Annual Conference has now been postponed and will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon from Sunday 25 October to Tuesday 27 October 2020.

 

Further information (updated 19 March)

For the latest info from the NFSP on coronavirus – see:

 

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