By refusing to change its retail service offering to customers, Lloyds Banking Group is breaching the Health Protections Regulations, which put the lockdown rules into law.
The bank has so far refused to change its strategy scale to reflect the fact that we are now in a national lockdown. In a note to staff, Ms. Jo Harris, Managing Director, Lloyds and Bank of Scotland, said: “Our strategy scale remains at Phase 4 status, so there is currently no change to the level or list of services we provide”. She then says: “Any face-to-face interviews can continue to take place…..”. In fact, it’s worse because we are aware of some senior managers who are actively encouraging staff – through the use of so-called development calls – to contact customers to set up face-to-face interviews.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No 4) Regulations were published last week. Those Regulations set out what we can and can’t do during this lockdown. Regulations 5 deals with restrictions on leaving home. Regulation 6 covers the exceptions for leaving home. The Regulations state
Restrictions on leaving home
‘5 (1) No person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1) –
(a) the circumstances in which a person has a reasonable excuse include where one of the exceptions set out in regulation 6 applies.’
Regulation 6 says:
‘6 (1) These are the exceptions referred to in regulation 5
Exception 1: leaving home necessary for certain purposes
(2) Exception 1 is that it is reasonably necessary for the person concerned (“P”) to leave or be outside the place where P is living (“P’s home”)—
(a) to buy goods or obtain services from any business or service listed in Part 3 of the Schedule, for—
(i) P or for those in the same household,
(ii) vulnerable persons, or
(iii) persons in the same household as a vulnerable person;
(b) to obtain money from or deposit money with any business listed in paragraph 43 or 44 of the Schedule.’
Subsection (b), which we have highlighted, makes it quite clear that as drafted the regulations prohibit banks from providing services face-to-face other than obtaining or depositing money. Those were essentially the two basic services provided by Lloyds in Lockdown 1. We are aware that other banks are also breaching the Health Protection Regulations.
Notwithstanding the legal arguments, Lloyds should not be encouraging customers, some of whom could be vulnerable – to leave their homes to visit branches. It’s that simple. The Welsh First Minister put it succinctly when he said: “The fewer people we meet, the fewer journeys we all make, the more we work from home, the safer we will all be”. And safety must come before profit.
We will be writing to the FCA and the Health Secretary asking them to clarify what services banks can and can’t offer during the lockdown. The union’s legal advisers are also reviewing what action we can take to enforce the Health Protection Regulations.
Members with any questions on this should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).