What we're doing
We continue to be here for you
As the UK embarks on the government roadmaps to unlock from the pandemic, we want to assure you that our operations are continuing. Although we’ve made big changes to the way we are working in the background, to ensure we’re always operating in a covid-secure way, for our customers we are working hard so that you see little to no change in the services we deliver to you and excellent levels of customer service you have come to expect. Our Contact Centres, Control Rooms and field response teams remain fully operational 24/7. If you experience a power cut, please contact us via our website, Power Cut Reporter app, via Twitter @wpduk or by calling 105.
It’s still necessary for us to carry out essential upgrades and maintenance to ensure you continue to receive a reliable energy supply now and in the future. Whilst in March 2020 we initially moved to essential works only in the months after we worked closely with the government, our regulator (Ofgem) and fellow utility companies across the UK to resume operations in a safe manner. We are identified as an essential service and our staff are key workers. As well as keeping the lights on, the government has encouraged industries like the construction sector to resume operations, and WPD has a key role to support these activities. As a result, we have seen a gradual increase in enquiries from developers, local authorities, and individual customers. In response, we have therefore restarted customer-driven works, followed by the phased resumption of our capital programme.
This means we are working on sites and follow the Government guidance in relation to distancing protocols, hygiene measures and other additional protective requirements. We are also asking all customers to help us follow these steps, for example, discussing how we can access equipment and work areas whilst ensuring our collective wellbeing and safety through social distancing.
Many of our staff who are able to do so, are working from home in line with Government advice. We are working with the wider industry, our regulator Ofgem, and our trade unions to ensure we continue to provide the best response to the pandemic at all times.
As an industry, we have been working together with fellow electricity and gas network companies to keep energy flowing throughout the UK.
From the outset of the pandemic, energy companies have implemented safe working practices in consultation with colleagues, contractors and trade unions. As the governments’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic develops, companies and unions are continuing to keep their approach under careful watch and carry out regular reviews of their practices to make sure they operate as safely as possible.
Energy companies will always take an approach that safeguards the health and wellbeing of their customers and colleagues.
As lockdown restrictions ease along roadmaps and set dates, companies and unions are mindful of the possibility of changes or delays and a resurgence that will require continued vigilance. They continue to take appropriate safety measures, including:
- Revising and implementing procedures based on our joint learning from experience gained since the start of the pandemic
- Continuing to ensure any new or revised procedures provide customers with the best possible service
- Working with the National HESAC and across the whole energy industry to pre-empt and prepare for any potential spikes in infections to ensure that colleagues and the public have confidence that the essential services they rely on will continue to be provided safely
- Reviewing existing COVID-19 risk assessments with trades union health and safety representatives. Any changes to the assessments will be shared with energy industry and contractors, demonstrating transparency, and ensuring they are easily accessible.
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the voice of the networks, representing the ‘wires and pipes’ transmission and distribution networks operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland. The ENA has collectively ensured a safe and a reliable continuation of this vital service throughout this pandemic.
David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, said:
“The energy networks continue to put colleagues and customers at the heart of their COVID-19 response. We are constantly reviewing our plans to make sure we continue to provide the best possible service, especially to those who need extra help. We will carry on working with our colleagues and trades unions to keep people safe, protect those most in need and keep your energy flowing.”
Sue Ferns, Senior Deputy General Secretary of Prospect said:
“By working together and focusing on detailed changes to make work COVID-secure, the companies and unions have ensured that we have maintained high safety standards and service to customers. Trade union safety representatives have played a key role and their work will be even more vital during the challenging times ahead."
The C-19 Business Pledge
We joined 300 organisations globally in the C-19 Business Pledge, covering over 2.5 million employees and over 500,000 students (3 million people). Founded by former UK Cabinet Minister, Rt Hon. Justine Greening, and UK entrepreneur David Harrison, the pledge aimed to mobilise the immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This collective effort has enabled global support to employees, customers, and communities.
For more information on the C-19 Business Pledge click here:
We continue to support our customers and community now, and into the future. We are continuously adapting to the needs whether that be via online resource, funding, communication, services or other.
Education and discovery
Our educational website, Power Discovery Zone, features interactive games as well as a wide range of information to help children understand more about electricity and how to stay safe around electricity.
Resources include an interactive Renewable Energy Quiz, animated videos, virtual reality experiences, and many more. Our featured electricity superhero, Pylonman, has swapped his usual classroom visits for the internet, to engage and inform children on everything to do with electricity.
Youngsters will also be able to find out how they can reduce the energy they use by checking in with Ecobot, our energy saving mascot! Find out more here.
Supporting customers in vulnerable situations
We’re providing additional support to the 1.9 million customers on our Priority Services Register (PSR), many of whom may find a power cut difficult or are medically dependent on electricity.
During the crisis, we’ve been working closely with local community partners to help PSR customers most in need to access services such as food and prescription deliveries, telephone calls to combat loneliness and advice on energy savings.
A new iPad app has made it easier for our field staff to refer those who may be struggling or in isolation due to coronavirus.
We’ve also emailed over 300,000 PSR customers to tell them about the help and resources we can offer during the coronavirus outbreak and after we emerge. In addition, we continue to make around 4,000 proactive calls to customers in vulnerable situations during power cuts, to check on their well-being and offer update. A special coronavirus information portal for PSR customers on our website includes everything from energy saving tips to home schooling resources and regularly updated FAQs.
Many more customers have been signposted to the portal by text message.
Customer support schemes
During normal operating conditions, we work with a wide network of community-based agencies to support those struggling to afford their energy bills.
In the last 12 months, we’ve helped more than 18,000 customers directly save a total of over £10.5 million.
In light of coronavirus, we have scaled up our existing customer support schemes. This means that over 50 organisations that WPD typically works with to offer energy saving and tariff switching advice widened their support to include befriending services and actions such as delivering shopping and prescriptions to isolated and vulnerable people.
Alongside our community partners, we’ve continued to help those who have been most affected by the crisis to access support and advice, including help with online shopping slots, food bank referrals and advice on energy payment schemes.
Supporting our staff
We recognise the vital job every member of staff has played to support our customers and communities at this time, and we have continued to support their mental and physical wellbeing throughout the pandemic and beyond. This means that internal and external support has been provided and has enabled us to continue our essential work in the safest way possible.
Working safety adaptations
Our staff’s safety has always been a priority, and as such, changes were made to enable this work to continue. This has been a continuous process, these are just some of the ways in which we’ve taken action:
- Additional PCs were built and our IT network expanded to allow for over 2,000 staff to work from home where possible.
- Our fleet of vehicles was increased by 10% to keep our teams on the road while enabling better social distancing.
- Significant PPE was sourced to ensure our staff were able to keep safe whilst keeping the power flowing.
Mental Health and Returning to the Workspace
We recognise the importance of looking after the mental wellbeing of our staff. To better support the mental health of staff, 300 managers have received mental health training.
A document is available internally for guidance to staff for self-care and measures to take when returning to the office including:
- Talk and connect
- Plan and prepare
- Have a return-to-work conversation with your line manager
- Take things one step at a time
- Monitor and review how you are getting on
In-house and external sources of help are also detailed for extra support should any employee need it, these include mental health first aiders, CBT access, Occupational health teams and Samaritans, MIND, PAPYRUS etc.
Social Distancing at Work
A comprehensive guide for all colleagues was distributed and made available to inform all on how WPD was keeping them safe as well as guidelines and precautions they should take to help minimise risks. This included:
- Hygiene advice
- Social distancing changes to travel & use of company vehicles
- Social distancing in offices and depots
- Social distancing in stores and stock areas
- Social distancing on work sites
- Social distancing for visitors and contractors
Guidance on Face Covering and Hand Washing
Posters around the workplace, as well as shared over email and the intranet ensure that staff are up to date and fully aware and reminded of Government guidelines for proper use of face masks and techniques for handwashing.