The vast majority of Lloyds and Halifax branches will now close at 3.30. Only the largest branches in central locations will remain open until 5pm. In a recent note to staff, Jo Harris, Managing Director, Lloyds Community Bank, said:
“Our branches are increasingly busy as people start to go about their life again, however customer demand levels are still highly variable. Whilst we have demand in a number of branches getting back to pre-lockdown levels, we also have branches where activity levels are only a fraction of what they were. This means it is sensible to take decisions with a more granular view of specific, local circumstances and the demand from our customers”.
To close branches early now, based on customer behaviour during a pandemic, which is very much still with us, seems at best a kneejerk response and at worst naive. If one was being cynical one would think that Lloyds is using the pandemic to force customers to use alternative, cheaper channels and/or getting them used to the fact that their local branch opening hours are changing permanently. We are in the middle of a pandemic and the UK, like almost all other countries, is on the cusp of a second wave. Lloyds itself is predicting that the second wave may happen in early February. Customers are not behaving normally; none of us. I assume that Mrs Harris is still working from home, as am I, and that’s despite the fact that based on the current infection cases the average person is more likely to die from taking regular baths than they are from Covid-19. Like with closures, once a branch has reduced its hours there is very little chance of them changing back. The bank should have reopened with existing hours either until the second wave is over, assuming we get one, or a vaccine is found. Only then should the bank have contemplated changing opening hours based on customer behaviour.
Don’t Be Bullied Into Changing Your Hours
Members are now being invited to one-to-one meetings to discuss their future working hours. The vast majority of line managers will deal with this sensitively and find solutions which work for everyone. However, we all know that there will be a small minority who will use this to coerce members into changing their working hours or working days.
In her note, Jo Harris also said:
“So that we can continue to ensure we are available when and how our customers need us, we are now asking all colleagues, including MaPAs, to begin returning to your usual, full weekday working hours. Saturday opening will be based on local decisions, reflecting customer demand for our support. Whilst the branch doors are closed, there will be a range of activities which will support our colleagues across the Retail Bank, truly operating as one team in the interests of our customers.
One of the things the pandemic has shown us, is that, as experts in looking after our customers, you can do so effectively across all our channels, not just face-to-face. This means real variety and development opportunities are available to you within your role…..”
The fact that the bank has decided to close early does not mean that staff have to change their working hours to make up the difference. If staff are available for work, which they are by definition, then the fact that the bank is not able to provide them with work is its problem. At this stage we don’t need to get into the issue of contractual rights. If line managers ask members to make up the shortfall in working hours because the branch is closing early then they should simply quote from Jo Harris’s email and ask to be assigned work to help out other parts of the bank whilst the branch is closed. Many front-line staff have been helping out customers from other areas of the bank already during the pandemic. Members should not be bullied to change their hours of work or working days just because the bank is closing early every night or closing early on Saturdays.
Members with any questions on this Newsletter should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).