The Royal Mail has assured customers that postal services are getting back on track despite Covid-related absence among staff, after a study suggested that almost one in three people experienced a delay in sending or receiving letters last month.
A report by Citizens Advice said almost one in 20 people received no letters for the whole of January, leaving some being unable to pay a bill, or missing a GP appointment or job interview.
People across London, the West Midlands and the South East were most likely to experience a delay, according to a survey of 2,000 adults by the charity.
Citizens Advice conceded that Royal Mail faced new pressures during the pandemic, and that postal workers have worked “tirelessly”.
It is understood that absence levels in some delivery offices have been as high as 50% at times in the past year because of the virus crisis.
Royal Mail said it is disappointed with the report, adding that the findings do not correlate to its internal data.
Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We know Royal Mail have faced new pressures during the pandemic, and postal workers have worked tirelessly to ensure we can all stay connected.
“But letter delivery is a vital public service, relied on by many for bills and other critical information.
“Ensuring that people are able to receive letters at least once a week will provide reassurance to millions. We also urge Royal Mail to provide more transparency to people about what they can expect.”
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “From the start of this crisis, we have worked hard to keep the UK connected. As Citizens Advice has recognised, the ongoing pandemic has led to unprecedented new pressures on our network.
“Given the exceptional volumes we have experienced during lockdown, and the ongoing impact of Covid-related staff absences, we recognise that at times our service has not always been as we would have wished.
“We always welcome new insight into our customers’ experience of our services so that we can sharpen our focus. In this case, we are disappointed by the Citizens Advice findings.
“These findings do not correlate to our own internal data, which shows our performance steadily improving in January despite the ongoing impact of Covid.
“We can reassure customers that, thanks to the tireless efforts of our team, supported by around 10,000 temporary workers, our service is getting back on track.
“In those areas that are temporarily affected by very high levels of absence, customers can expect deliveries at least every other day.
“It will only be in extreme cases when this may not be possible, but these are the exception.”
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