Royal Mail Group – Latest Updated Coronavirus/Covid-19 – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Guidance Document (Version 84)
I attach for your information Version 84 of the Royal Mail Group, Managers’ Coronavirus/Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Guidance document, issued by the business on 1 March 2021.
At the commencement of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 outbreak, Royal Mail Group established a ‘Business Pandemic Team’ which includes all national heads of department and this team meets regularly to review the situation across Royal Mail Group and to issue update Questions and Answers information communications to all managers, which is cascaded throughout the business.
The Coronavirus Guidance, version 84 Q&A document has been shared with the Union’s Health, Safety & Environment Department and is hereby circulated for information and reference purposes for CWU Regions, Health and Safety Reps, Branch Reps and Divisional IR Reps.
The Q&A documents are circulated to all RMG managers and are also available to access through a link on the Royal Mail Group ‘Intranet’, in the ‘Managers Update Messages’ section.
Please note that when update changes and additions are made from the previous versions, they are normally highlighted in ‘Yellow’.
Some recent important additional Questions and Answers of interest are:-
Q: What advice is available for first aider’s who may need to respond to a patient with/without coronavirus symptoms?
As advice may change based on increasing experience in the care of patients, First Aiders should consult the advice of St John Ambulance, Public Health England and the Resuscitation Council for advice on how to administer treatment. lf maintaining 2m distancing is not possible and/or First Aiders want to wear a mask, these should be requested through their line manager. Managers should ensure that all First Aiders have been informed and, where required, given access to the resources above.
Q: Is there any specific guidance for pregnant women?
The general guidance for pregnant women is the same as everyone else e.g. regular hand washing, use of face coverings and social distancing however all pregnant women should have a New and Expectant Mothers Risk Assessment completed which will need to be regularly reviewed and if there are any changes in risk then the controls should be updated accordingly.
Pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution because they can sometimes be more at risk from viruses like flu – It’s not clear if this happens with coronavirus but because it’s a new virus, it’s safer to include pregnant women in the moderate-risk group. According to the NHS there is no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus. Any concerns should be reported to a midwife or maternity team immediately – full NHS guidance is available here.
Q: The Local Area Health and Safety Representative has requested to visit my office to complete an inspection, can I allow them to visit?
Yes, the CWU and Unite officers have a legal right to visit any premises where their members are working. CWU and Unite/CMA Area Health and Safety Reps have a statutory entitlement to carry out Health and safety inspections and investigations and it is a legal requirement that the company facilitates such visits to Units. These visits can and will continue during Covid-19 T4/T5 Lockdown with ‘Covid-Secure’ protocols and standards (Hands-Face-Space) followed at all times. Units may also receive unannounced visits from HSE and Local Authority EHO. The SHE team have developed a joint inspection form with the union that reps will follow when on site to help ensure we are maintaining the same standards across our estate.
Q: Will Royal Mail be providing face masks?
It has been mandatory for all colleagues to wear a face covering in all Royal Mail Group indoor workplaces from Monday, 9th November 2020. We also support and actively encourage the use of face coverings in all outdoor settings to keep our colleagues and customers safe. Face coverings do not replace other preventative measures, i.e. increased hand hygiene, social distancing, increased cleaning, etc, which must remain in place.
A move to mandatory face coverings in all indoor workplaces strengthens the existing preventative measures already in place to protect you and others from coronavirus and supports our risk management strategy which we are responsible for under health and safety legislation. This is a view shared by regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive and many local authorities. We have already seen some excellent examples where indoor workplaces are wearing face coverings and uptake has been good.
Royal Mail is providing branded reusable face coverings for operational colleagues to reduce the impact on the environment and for colleague comfort. These are being delivered direct to operational units. Line managers should distribute them to each individual employee. Disposable masks will still be available for those who prefer to wear them and for our casual employees.
Full face mask and face covering guidance is available via the Royal Mail Portal on the page.
Posters to display this requirement are available on the SHE Coronavirus Document Library –Posters.
While working outside of RMG premises in indoor places where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet e.g. public buildings, business receptions, blocks of flats it is recommended that face coverings are worn.
The law provides discretion to people who have a health condition, a disability and other groups. These will not always be visible, so staff should continue to serve all who enter CSPs, including those not wearing face coverings.
Q: There is someone in my office who cannot wear a face covering for medical or other reasons what should they do?
We recognise that some employees are unable to wear face coverings for medical or other reasons, and that they are not practical to wear for some activities in certain job roles, e.g. in a call centre where full social distancing measures are in place.
Managers should request evidence of an exemption and can keep records that employees have met the criteria for the exemption but should not record the specific reason as this is not necessary, even if the employee shares this with the manager. Ideally a letter from the GP confirming the employee has a valid exemption reason is sufficient. Employees with an exemption certificate which can be printed off from various online sites or employees wearing a sunflower lanyard still need to present evidence for managers to review.
Speak to your line manager if you have questions or concerns.
Wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard discreetly indicates to people around you including staff, colleagues and health professionals that you may need additional support, help or a little more time. Not all disabilities are visible – some are hidden and not immediately obvious, such as learning difficulties, mental health as well as mobility, speech, visual or hearing impairments. Living with a hidden disability can make daily life more demanding for many people, but it can be difficult for others to identify, acknowledge or understand the challenges you face.
The sunflower lanyard is only intended for people with a hidden disability or an underpinning health condition. It is not for just general use if you cannot wear a face covering.
For those people with a hidden disability or underpinning health condition wearing the Sunflower is entirely a choice.
The Sunflower lanyard can be requested via line managers who can order via the an excel form here and then e-mailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests will be collated daily and despatched via our network. Please note there is a seven working day lead time, therefore lanyards will be available from w/c 30 November. These lanyards will include an auto release safety clip, employees wearing their own versions will need to ensure they meet the same standard.
Employees may wear similar identification to make it clear they are subject to medical or other exemption to wearing a face covering. The web page gives further detail on this. https://hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/, other options are available.
Q: Can I wear a visor instead of a face covering?
Existing PHE guidance has been updated with additional guidance on use of face visors, which advises that a face visor or shield may be worn in addition to a face covering but not instead of one. This is because face visors or shields do not adequately cover the nose and mouth.
For those with an exemption to wearing a face covering and who can/are currently wearing a face visor or shield, you should continue to wear the face visor as this offers more protection than wearing nothing.
Q: What are the washing requirements for the reusable face coverings issued?
Face coverings can be hand washed or washed in a washing machine at 60 degrees (not 30 degrees as per packaging) for up to 30 washes. Do not dry clean the face coverings or use fabric conditioner as these can leave residues on the materials which should not be breathed in. It is important to wear a clean face covering each day and to change it during the day if it becomes wet.
Q: Where can I order extra Royal Mail reusable face coverings?
Units can order extra face coverings from the web site: https://store.paragon-cc.co.uk/rm-stationery. There is a limited supply of additional face coverings available and they will be prioritised to operational units. Any non-operational employees can request a face covering via the above link (subject to availability) or at the unit they are attending if they are unable to work from home.
Q: How has Royal Mail selected the branded reusable face covering?
Face coverings alone will not protect people from contracting the virus. They can help to reduce the risk of infection and are an additional tool that will help to control the spread of it. The face coverings provided by the business are sufficient to help reduce the spread of the virus within the workplace but they must not lead to a relaxed attitude to hand washing and social distancing. The government guidance has been clear throughout the pandemic that PPE should be reserved for medical use and for work tasks where protection from dust, chemicals and other contaminants is necessary. Face coverings, whilst not expected to meet PPE standards, play a valuable role in reducing transmission of coronavirus in the community.
The face coverings comply with UK’s General Products Safety Regulations 2005 and they have certification for suitability of the fabric for wearing over the nose and mouth. As they have not been supplied as medical grade the manufacturer has used their standard non-medical description on some of the documentation. They have three layers of fabric. Two layers are tightly knitted cotton and a further layer contains SilvaDur antimicrobial treatment. Two or three layers of tightly woven fabric have been shown in studies to be highly effective at filtering out the virus, equivalent to surgical mask standards. When wearing the face coverings it is easy to feel the resistance to air flow through them when compared to many other face coverings.
Q: What examples of evidence will employees have as proof of exemption for not wearing a mask?
In considering the approach for exemptions. In many cases, employees with an existing health condition will have appropriate medical correspondence, such as hospital letters, consultant letters, NHS letters or appointment cards, OH reports, documented conversations with managers about their condition, e.g. welcome back meetings, rehabilitation plans, attendance reviews, which can be provided as evidence, with the specific condition hidden/redacted (e.g. by an appropriately placed post-it note or using a marker-pen) if the employee chooses. Given the many examples of evidence an employee will likely have, we do not foresee that many employees will be unable to share evidence. In many cases the manager will already be aware of an employee’s condition.
Q: Will Royal Mail be paying employees for proof of their exemption for wearing a mask and any time off incurred to attend doctor’s appointments?
If employees do not have any current or existing evidence (see above examples) of their exemption and an employee advises that a GP fee is going to be involved, then the manager should contact Advice & Support on 0345 6043657. Our aim is to avoid any incurred charges for employees and identify other options. GPs are conducting consultations via phone or web-based option, letters are routinely emailed to patients or are posted if an employee does not have an email address. We do not foresee an employee being offered a face to face appointment and requiring time off and, more importantly, as stated we are looking to identify options of evidence that do not involve the GP or any charges.
Q: Will Royal Mail be offering an Occupational Health referral for anyone who is exempt from wearing a face covering?
Employees can discuss any concerns with their line manager. Managers should contact Advice & Support for advice. If Advice & Support believe that an OH referral is appropriate, they will advise the manager.
Q: Will time off be granted to attend for vaccine appointments?
Where possible, colleagues should try to arrange appointments to receive the vaccine outside of working hours; though we do understand this may not be possible. Due to the exceptional circumstances of this pandemic and the importance to both our colleagues and Royal Mail in them receiving the vaccine, managers should support employees to attend their vaccination appointment. This may mean providing time off for colleagues to attend appointments during working hours.
NOTE: Please also note that these Q & A documents are ‘Royal Mail Group’ advice documents and not all of the contents are agreed with the CWU.
- Self-isolation, testing and reporting
- Cleaning and consumables
- Support and advice
- General guidance
- Travel/and annual holiday
- Caring for dependants
- Sick pay
- Attendance process
- Vulnerable employees
- General Ops advice
- NHS testing kits
- Operational processes and reporting changes
- Delivering and collecting from customers
- Fleet and vehicles
- ADVICE FOR CUSTOMERS
Any enquiries to this LTB or feedback on the RMG Q&A document should be directed to Dave Joyce CWU National Health, Safety & Environment Officer. Issues received in connection with the attached which are appropriate to other CWU/HQ Departments will be passed on the appropriate National Officer.
- Coronavirus Guidance Questions and Answers V84
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer