Update on key issues in Community Bank
We said in our last newsflash that we’d be in touch again when we had more information to share on a number of issues – not least of which was the proposal for you to return to your full contracted hours (or as near as possible) to support customers after branches close at 2pm.
The details of what’s expected of you and why have now been shared with us, and the business has cascaded its own communications too. From early feedback, there seems to be some confusion out there. This note attempts to clarify things so you understand what is, and isn’t, being asked of you.
Let’s start with the reason why you’re being asked to stay on …
The business has shared with us the impact of directing customers away from branch to other channels – telephony and digital. If those customers can’t be served in branch then it stands to reason they’ve got to be served elsewhere in the business – or they’ll simply leave and go to a competitor.
The decrease in transaction levels in branches (60% down on pre-pandemic levels) means an increase elsewhere; in Connect, the Operations businesses, Fraud and Disputes, and Business Banking for example.
You’ll know that other steps have already been taken to help support customers who have changed the way they bank, for example moving hundreds of colleagues from branch to Customer Services on a temporary and permanent basis. But despite these measures, there’s still a real gap between customer demand and available resources. That’s why you’re being asked to help. It’s vital that the bank’s customers are supported during this difficult time.
Now let’s look at what you’re being asked to do …
We’re assured that you won’t be asked to do anything that’s outside your skillset or grade nor will you be expected to stay in branch unless there really is something you can do to support your customers. Examples include outbound calling to the most vulnerable customers, calling those who are contacting the bank most frequently and secure messaging.
By taking these tasks in branch that would usually be carried out in Customer Services, you’ll be freeing up telephony colleagues to handle the breadth of calls that they’re trained to do but are struggling to manage as more and more branch customers migrate to that channel.
You won’t be expected to make sales calls or conduct interviews (there may be some exceptional instances where you’re asked to complete a reactive interview for a vulnerable customer or for a bereavement for example). You won’t be expected to do other things like fit in a check-in, though you may choose to use the additional time available to have a personal well-being discussion with your line manager. You shouldn’t be expected to do activities such as reading framework guidance or cleaning and tidying the branch! Just the business critical work needed to support your customers.
We asked what this will look like in practice, and here’s the expectation …
Once the branch closes to the public at 2pm, usual ‘run the bank’ processes should be completed. If there is customer support work or outbound calling activity allocated to the branch, colleagues will be expected to stay on to complete as much as possible by 4.30pm when they’ll leave in time to avoid peak travel. If there’s no customer support work or outbound calling activity to be done, colleagues will leave when the branch closes. If the work is completed before 4.30pm, colleagues will go home then.
Whilst all colleagues should be available during this new ‘working window’, it’s not envisaged that every colleague in every branch will be working until 4.30pm every day.
That’s it in a nutshell.
We didn’t expect this decision to be universally popular and we understand why members are asking why they’re being asked to work more hours during this lockdown compared to what was expected of them back in March last year.
The difference is the protections that are now in place that should make branches a safe place to work. PPE is available for all staff, anti-bac gel is on hand, face masks are provided for customers, regular breaks are authorised for handwashing and getting some fresh air, social distancing measures are in place, branch capacity is being managed, screens have been installed, COVID specific risk assessments have been carried out and enhanced cleaning has been scheduled.
If any of these safety measures aren’t in place in your branch, we can help get that sorted quickly. You’re not expected to work in an unsafe environment – and there are measures that can be taken if an employer fails to act.
We can also advise on individual situations if you feel unable to support the business in this way and we can help sort things out if you’re being asked to do more than genuine customer support work.
Contact details for the Accord officer who covers your branch can be found on our support finder.
But do talk to your line manager too. They’ve got the difficult job of trying to make this work to keep customers supported and to keep you as safe as possible. Working together as a team has to be the best way.
And don’t forget the promise to pay for alternative ways of travelling to work is still there, as is the guarantee to pay your full contracted hours no matter how COVID impacts you. So, there is a safety net in place should you need it.
We’ve got other updates to share with you and a further communication will follow in the next few days.