As we entered 2021, rather than the improvement in conditions we had all hoped for, we saw a return to national lockdown. We have continued to ensure we have measures in place which will enable us to keep our people, and the services we deliver to you, as safe as we can. With the situation continuing to change around us, we wanted to update you on what we are doing.
We have an established business continuity plan which has been approved by the EQ Group Crisis Management team with input from the EQ Group Operations Emergency Crisis team and local area continuity plans. We are confident that this allows us to provide resilient and robust operating practices to protect people and the priority services we provide; indeed this has been demonstrated by the way in which we and our people responded to the first lockdown and thereafter throughout 2020.
We have continued to suspend our return to office working, maintaining our home-working model, with office attendance only on an exceptional basis.
In our Customer Experience Centres (CECs), our recently upgraded infrastructure allows telephony to be provided via homeworking. This enables the member enquiry service to remain operational despite government restrictions. We also have established contingency plans to switch to email communications should the situation demand, although at this time we do not believe this to be necessary.
The need for this new lockdown was triggered by increasing infection rates and also the emergence of new strains of the COVID-19 virus, with the potential for wider impact on all of us. This includes the physical risks of COVID-19, the health risks arising from limitations on non-COVID-19 medical treatment, logistic challenges arising from schools and nurseries being closed and last, but by no means least, the psychological impacts of continuing to live and work in these straitened conditions. In light of these changing circumstances, we have continued to evolve our plans and controls to ensure we make the best use of our people and our ability to be flexible and adaptable.
We are actively monitoring our people to establish which of our colleagues:
- Are available and able to work;
- Are in isolation/quarantine and able to work/not able to work;
- Have COVID-19 symptoms and are able to work/not able to work; and
- Are dealing with a third party impact (caring for children/family etc.).
In the event we identify issues which could affect services, we will engage with HP to review whether we need to temporarily revert to the COVID-19 prioritisation approach we adopted last year. To remind you, this puts payment related services (payments and putting benefits into payment) as our top priority, alongside ensuring the safe running of all systems to ensure priority servicing can continue.
The actions we have taken over the course of 2020 allowed us to react to the situation, protect our staff and deliver continuity of service, despite changing conditions and restrictions on a personal and national level. We will continue to review our plans against changing circumstances and adapt as the situation demands, making sure we keep you updated on our plans. Should you have any specific concerns or questions please contact us.
From the Team at Equiniti