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Coronavirus: Workforce will not be furloughed

Thursday 16th April 2020 11:00

Thames Water engineers working outside

Thames Water has joined Britain’s biggest water companies in announcing today it will not use the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme to furlough any of its 6,000 employees.

The Government has designated water company staff as key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, as they are carrying out essential work on the country’s water and sewerage systems.

With thousands of people carrying out vital work, Thames Water wanted to reassure its employees and customers across London and the Thames Valley it would be supporting its workforce through the crisis and not applying for help under the Government’s furlough scheme.

Lynne Graham, Thames Water’s HR director, said: “We’re continuously looking at the impact of coronavirus on our business and adapting, but it’s clear all of our people have an important role to play as water and waste services do not stop.

“A key part of our continuity plan includes looking at how we can bring in extra staff or redeploy existing staff elsewhere in the business to fill critical roles should they be required. But we certainly need everyone, and therefore have no intention of furloughing any of our employees.

“We’re following Government health advice to make sure our customers and our people stay safe, and the absolute focus throughout this extraordinary time remains fixed on maintaining essential services to our customers.”

All water companies across England have been reorganising their operations in recent weeks to ensure they continue to maintain water and sanitation services to millions of families and businesses during the crisis.

Where possible, customer contact centres have been overhauled to allow staff to work from home.

Companies have also transformed the operation of their field teams and central control rooms, which manage the water and sewerage network and treatment plants, to maintain services while taking on board all advice regarding social distancing and reducing the risks associated with coronavirus. Well-established contingency plans have meant many office-based staff are able to work from home.

Thames Water employees who are self-isolating or who have to be at home to care for dependents but who cannot work from home are continuing to receive full pay during this period.

While Government social distancing rules mean staff are no longer entering customers’ homes to carry out routine work, the company recognises that access to a customer’s property may be required in emergencies and appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) will be worn in these cases. Thousands of workers are also carrying out essential maintenance and repair work on the water and sewerage network, a key part of the sectors’ role in protecting public health.

Thames Water is offering a wide array of support to customers who are facing financial difficulties as a result of the crisis, including special tariffs and flexible payment plans, and has been taking steps to support its network of suppliers and the wider regional economy.

The companies that have joined together to announce that they have no intention of using the Government’s furlough scheme include: Yorkshire Water, United Utilities, Severn Trent, South West Water, Anglian Water, Thames Water, Northumbrian Water, Wessex Water, Scottish Water and Welsh Water.