Coronavirus update - 4 May 2020

May 4, 2020 |

NFSP

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

 

Headline information (updated 4 May)

 

National NFSP mails webinar - Wednesday 6 May 8pm-9pm

Following on from our successful HR webinar in April, the NFSP will be holding a national mails webinar on Wednesday 6 May.

The event will be chaired by NFSP CEO Calum Greenhow and will feature two guest speakers:

  • Mark Siviter – Managing Director of Mails and Retail, Post Office Ltd

 

  • Nick Landon - Chief Customer Officer, Royal Mail (RM)

 

Both speakers will be delivering presentations on a wide range of mails-related issues that NFSP members have requested, including:

  • The suspension of Saturday deliveries of Letters/Large Letters.
  • Refusal by RM workers to collect mails from inside post offices.
  • Earlier/reduced RM collections.
  • The increase in online traders and home shopping returns.

Throughout the call, you will be able to submit written questions to both speakers through the ‘Live event Q&A’ function.

If you wish to submit any questions in advance of the event, you can do so by emailing communications@nfsp.org.uk (deadline for submitting questions is 2pm Wednesday 6 May)

 

To join the event, click HERE

If you are unable to attend, a recording of the event will be shared on our website (www.nfsp.org.uk), our Facebook page, and on your local NFSP WhatsApp groups.

 

Technical information

You can use a range of devices to join the event – but please note that there are different instructions depending on what device you will be using.

PC / laptop users:

  • If you use Outlook, Hotmail, or Office 365 – you should be able to connect simply by clicking on the LINK.

 

  • If you DO NOT use Outlook, Hotmail or Office 365, then you should use Google Chrome as your browser and copy and paste the link above into Chrome.

 

Mobile device (Apple or Android), tablet, iPad or Apple Mac users:

  • Download the Microsoft Teams app to your device and create an account.

 

  • If you have an Outlook or Hotmail account, you should use that email address to create your Teams account.

 

  • If you do not have an Outlook or Hotmail email account, you will be required to set one up (see ‘Sign up for free’).

 

  • When registering with the Teams app, you should select that you are using Teams for work purposes (rather than for school or to contact friends and family).

 

  • Once your account is set up, you can click on the LINK and the Teams app will open up the event automatically.

 

Support from the NFSP (updated 4 May)

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

We are holding virtual regional meetings so you can catch up with other members and NFSP representatives together in an online setting.

Upcoming meetings are:

  • TOMORROW Tuesday 5 May – London Region 8pm-9pm
  • TOMORROW Tuesday 5 May – Wales 8pm-9pm

Contact your Regional Secretary or Regional Non-Executive Director for more information – including when your next regional meeting is taking place

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 regular updates to members, branch and regional representatives and staff.

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 4 May)

We are speaking with Post Office Ltd (PO) on a regular 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:

  • Historical Shortfall Scheme. Post Office Ltd (PO) has launched this scheme for current and former postmasters who believe they have experienced shortfalls related to previous versions of Horizon. The NFSP will be supporting members, past and present, who wish to make a claim through the scheme. We will provide more detail on this as soon as possible. For more information go to https://www.onepostoffice.co.uk/scheme

 

  • Remuneration support from Post Office Ltd. After much discussion between the NFSP, Post Office Ltd (PO) and government, we are very pleased that PO will be underpinning independent subpostmasters’ remuneration – offering a guaranteed level of income in your April and May 2020 remuneration. PO have released guidance on how your remuneration for April and May will be calculated HERE. We are currently in discussions with PO about June and July’s remuneration.

 

  • Royal Mail are suspending deliveries of standard letters and large letters on a Saturday. Deliveries of Special Delivery, Signed-For, Tracked and inbound International priority items along with all parcel sized items will continue on Saturdays. As a result, there is a change to mails segregation guidelines effective from Thursday 30 April: all Signed-For letters and large letters are to be dispatched with Special Delivery and International Priority items in the Specials bag until further notice. Please do not place Signed-For letters in your Letter/Large Letter bag. While this change in segregation practice is due to a change in Royal Mail’s Saturday deliveries, please note that it applies to all Signed-For letters and large letters you handle throughout the week. If you have any questions about this, or other issues relating to mails segregation, you can contact your local Mails Segregation Adviser.

 

  • HR webinar video and FAQs. On 21 April the NFSP held a successful webinar for members across the UK. Several hundred subpostmasters joined the meeting and heard from Angela Clay of NFSP partner organisation HR:4UK, and Post Office Ltd’s Iain Robertson. You can view the videos of the event on the NFSP Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NFSPLtd. HR:4UK have responded to the questions from NFSP members raised during the call – a comprehensive summary can be downloaded from the NFSP website HERE

  

  • NFSP member FAQs. We have compiled FAQs based on the main questions and issues raised by NFSP members during recent online regional meetings. You can view these HERE

 

  • ‘Payout Now’ and ‘Fast PACE’. PO has made these two products available to all UK banks, building societies and credit unions in order to help make cash available to anyone self-isolating due to the coronavirus. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the detail provided on these products on One online and Branch Focus.

 

  • Branch Hub. PO has brought forward the launch of Branch Hub and the NFSP recommends that you register for this service – HERE. PO have informed the NFSP that Branch Hub should save you time spent waiting on the phone, and all your IT issues are logged and stored in one place. Through Branch Hub, you will be able to change your branch opening hours (if you need to due to the coronavirus), view PO’s list of FAQs, report IT issues and track their progress, and chat online to IT support. In future, you will be able to order stock, coin and cash via Branch Hub.

 

  • Compliance test extension. As many subpostmasters and post office staff may be unavailable at times due to the coronavirus crisis, PO have extended the deadline for Broadband and Homephone compliance testing until 7 July 2020. We expect PO will provide further detail on this issue in due course.

 

  • Updating Post Office Branch Finder. Several subpostmasters have reported delays when seeking to update their opening hours on Branch Finder. The NFSP understands that it will be quicker to contact your Area Manager for this purpose, rather than going via NBSC. Branch Hub can also be used for this purpose.

 

  • Requesting PO staff to provide cover for customer-facing staff who are ill or self-isolating. PO are offering ‘central Post Office people’ who, subject to availability, may be able to come to your branch to help with serving or hosting customers to cover for staff who are off ill or self-isolating. PO have put together an online form for you to request such support: HERE

 

  • If you or your staff wish to wear a face mask, you should seek to acquire FFP2 or N95 respirators to offer the required level of protection. Any benefit from wearing these masks will be lost if you do not take the following steps:
    • Change the mask every 2-3 hours
    • Dispose of the mask effectively i.e. in an appropriate bin (preferably with a lid)
    • Wash your hands after disposing of the mask (and ensure your hands are clean when putting on a new mask)

 

  • Health and safety. Current guidelines indicate that there are no additional risks attached to the handling of mail items – even commercial items and international mail items. Otherwise, you should follow best practice in terms of personal hygiene e.g. regular handwashing and using hand sanitiser – as well as sterilising your counter and pin pads at regular intervals. (See below for info about how anti-bacterial wipes may not be sufficient in killing the coronavirus). Ensuring customers adhere to social distancing principles (for their and your safety) is also very important. PO have produced resources to help instruct customers – see One Post Office – and there are some good examples of how other subpostmasters and retailers are influencing customer behaviour HERE and HERE

 

  • Conversations with customers about their shopping behaviour. Many of you are frustrated that customers appear to be out and about conducting non-essential business during this ‘lockdown’ period. This is a tricky situation – post offices are classed as ‘essential services’, as are convenience / food stores. Other retail offers – e.g. cards and stationery – without a convenience / food element are not classed as essential and, without an adjoined post office, would be required to close during the ‘lockdown’. The NFSP has previously advised members that they should use their discretion about keeping their non-essential retail element open to customers. It is our view that you should make the decision about continuing to offer these products/services based on your own personal and business circumstances – see our urgent update from 24 March HERE.

 

  • Support for the self-employed. The government has 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. A general summary of the measures is available HERE

 

  • Essential services / critical workers. Post offices are listed in the government’s guidelines as ‘essential services’ and can remain open during the current ‘lockdown’, and Subpostmasters and their post office staff have been be classified as ‘critical workers’. 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: 1) Is the rest of your business (besides the post office) an ‘essential service’? 2) What is the most appropriate way of managing staff and resources at this time?

 

  • 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

 

  • 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’.

 

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.

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.

 

Further information

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

 

 

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