Covid-19: businesses rally to support NHS workers

The coronavirus crisis has seen an outpouring of business support for NHS workers, with companies large and small taking steps to offer medical staff free food, and streamlined access to essential services such as supermarkets and car parking facilities

BP has announced two initiatives, both of which are expected to be in place until at least the end of April.

Firstly, the oil giant will supply free fuel to the UK’s emergency services vehicles during the current crisis.

Through BP’s own fuel cards and an arrangement with fuel card provider Allstar – whose cards are also used widely throughout the UK’s emergency services – ambulance, fire and police service vehicles will be able to fill up without being charged for the cost of fuel at BP’s network of 1,200 retail sites nationally.

This includes both BP-operated and dealer-operated sites and will include charging of electric vehicles through BP Chargemaster. This initiative is expected to be in place from 21 March.

Secondly, from 23 March BP will offer delivery of food and convenience goods purchased from its network of company-owned convenience stores without delivery charge.

BP is in the process of expanding the number of its retail sites from which Deliveroo deliveries can be ordered and is working to arrange for delivery charges to be waived. Deliveries of both M&S products and other convenience goods in stock will be able to be arranged and no premium will be charged on delivered items.

Bernard Looney, BP chief executive said: ‘This crisis is affecting every part of society and all of us are trying to do what we can to help. It is vital that we support those on whom we all depend, as well as the most vulnerable in our communities.’

As well as dedicated shopping hours for NHS staff, supermarkets and other high street chains are offering a range of discounts and free items for frontline workers.  Pret, Starbucks and Greggs have given away free coffees, and pizza companies, healthfood chain Leon and others have provided free food.

Car park provider NCP is offering NHS staff free parking at over 150 car parks across the UK.

NHS staff need to pre-book online any time up to an hour before arriving, and the offer is valid for bookings and exits until end of April. There are no restrictions on the number of days which can be pre-booked in one booking.

Wagestream, a fintech platform which allows workers to release accrued pay on demand, is making its technology available to NHS trusts without charge to help them release earnings to workers facing coronavirus hardship.

The platform is already in use in three NHS trusts - Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust – as well as by some 11,000 support staff in BUPA care homes.

The usual three weeks required to integrate the technology with an employer’s payroll software has been cut to just 24 hours, allowing trusts to give workers access to an immediate relief fund specified by them.

Caps usually apply to the percentage of earned pay that staff are allowed to draw down but, during the crisis, any shift tagged as related to covid-19 on the Wagestream portal will be automatically eligible for fast, same-day payment of 80% of money earned once that shift ends.

The company says it will help prevent labour shortages by helping medical staff and other key workers deal with extra expenses they may face by working additional shifts.

The platform will also facilitate automated daily payment of statutory sick pay where trusts upload the names of those employees who are unwell and self-isolating.

Peter Briffett, CEO and co-founder of Wagestream, said: ‘Everybody faces unbearable uncertainty at the moment and this misery will be compounded by unexpected expenses. We are waiving all fees to ensure these vital workers can get at their pay when they need it.’

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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