Financial Support

19 June

When is do I need to apply for a Hardship Payment?
The initial deadline for applications for Hardship Scheme payments is just under two weeks away, on 30 June. We know there are branches struggling due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and the Hardship Payment scheme for independent Postmasters has been set up to support branches having severe financial issues. You can find more details on the criteria here and the application form here. If you have any questions on this, please contact your Area Manager in the first instance.


 

4 June

What about future financial support after June?
In the past few weeks more customers have returned to our branches and, with lockdown restrictions lifting, we expect this trend to continue. The additional remuneration payments we have been making in May, April and June have provided much welcomed financial support for Postmasters, on top of the financial support provided by Government to businesses.

The income Post Office will earn this year has been significantly impacted by the effects of Covid-19 and these effects will take some time to recover. As a consequence, our funds are severely impacted like any other business. Therefore, after careful consideration and detailed review, we will not be able to support with further top-up remuneration payments from July remuneration (June trading).

We fully recognise there are Postmasters who are severely impacted by Covid-19 and so we want to focus the limited financial support we have available on those branches that have severe financial issues. This means we will maintain the Hardship Payment scheme that we announced last week. We recognise that the next few months remain unpredictable which is why we want to be able to support those Postmasters in most need. We will of course, continue to keep a close eye on Government advice.

If you would like to apply for a Hardship Payment and meet the criteria, please note the initial deadline for applications for Hardship Payments is Tuesday 30 June. Please contact your Area Manager if you have any questions about submitting your application.

I have an unresolved IT issue and haven’t been able to access Branch Hub – what about the deadline for June remuneration on 3 June?
Thank you to all Postmasters who have completed the forms on Branch Hub to qualify for the June remuneration top-up. Branch Hub is still a new tool and while registration has been straightforward for most Postmasters, we appreciate that it hasn't been the same for everyone. To enable any final issues to be resolved we have extended the deadline, so forms need to be completed by Sunday 7 June please. 

To register for Branch Hub, click on or paste into your browser via your PC or smartphone https://branchhub.postoffice.co.uk/bh.

Once you have registered, please complete the form in the Agents Remuneration box on the homepage. If you have any questions, issues or need support, please speak to your Area Manager or you can contact the Branch Hub team directly by email: branch.hub@postoffice.co.uk.


 

28 May

How will these hardship payments work and how much can Postmasters receive? (Updated 21 May and 15 May, originally published 6 May)
We have been developing a hardship payments scheme to support Independent Postmasters, in addition to the remuneration support we have already announced for April, May and June. Making any decisions about financial support is always complicated, as we have a large and diverse network and our income remains impacted, but we recognise some Postmasters may have severe financial issues.

Further information, including details on the criteria is available here. If you meet these criteria and have severe financial issues, please complete this Hardship Payment form by Tuesday 30 June and send your form to agents.remuneration@postoffice.co.uk.

We know one size doesn’t fit all and every Postmaster and branch circumstance varies, so we want to understand and assess your situation before we consider a payment. The maximum value of any payment will take your current Post Office profit to a value of 80% of the pre Covid-19 Post Office profit. We will confirm any payments once we have received all applications and they have been processed.

Who can apply for hardship payments?
This is available to independent Postmasters who are experiencing severe financial issues. This scheme is not open to commercial partners.

What are the criteria for a hardship payment?
Hardship Payments are discretionary and will be based on an analysis of individual financial situations but all eligible branches will meet the following criteria:

  • Not be receiving any fixed remuneration (e.g. Assigned Office Payment, Core Tier Payment, Remote Support Payment, etc)
  • Traded less than 40% of normal trading level (variable remuneration) in May 2020 (June’s remuneration) (based upon the averages previously used to calculate remuneration top ups).
  • All available Government support and funding has been accessed and requested (and please let us know if you are not eligible for any support and provide details about why you believe you are not eligible.

If a Postmaster doesn't meet all three criteria, can they still apply for a hardship payment?
No – Postmasters need to meet all criteria’s to be eligible to apply.

Can a branch that has been closed or opened part way through May apply for a hardship payment?
Yes they can apply – we realise some branches may have traded for a few days/few weeks and they can apply if they meet the above criteria.

Can I apply for a hardship payment in relation to an outreach branch?
No. The majority of Outreach payments are fixed and are assigned to the Core branch. Post Office will review the outreach situation for any Core Branch that makes a submission having met the criteria above, taking account of whether Outreach services have remained in place during the May period.

How do I calculate June remuneration for the hardship payment?
Your May 2020 remuneration (April trading period) before any top-up is a good indication of what their percentage may be for May’s trading period and bear in mind that we have seen further recovery in this month.

We will update any estimate in a submission based on final remuneration for June, or Postmasters can wait until their June remuneration has been processed before completing a submission with those figures (usually available online 7 days before end of month).

Postmasters can request their percentage trading for April (May remuneration) by contacting the support team by email to agents.remuneration@postoffice.co.uk or contacting their Area Manager.

What details on Government support do you need?
Please provide details of any grants or loans received (i.e. Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan Scheme), payments made for staff furloughed in June through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and, any Self Employed Income grants via the Self Employment Income Support scheme.

Please let us know if you are not eligible for any support or have requested support.

What if I don’t meet the 40% trading level – is there any flexibility?
This is a self-funded scheme so we do need to be fair to all Postmasters.

If you are trading at more than 40% but believe you are experiencing severe financial issues, then please complete the form and discuss the situation with your Area Manager to then decide whether this should be considered as a further exception.

After this, if you are unsure and would like further advice on a specific case, please contact agents.remuneration@postoffice.co.uk.

Why are the criteria for hardship payments so complex and detailed?
This has been difficult to get right and we have developed criteria for the scheme which we believe is fair and will help make sure any payments go to Postmasters who have been impacted the most.

Why are you asking for details about my retail business?
Most Postmasters run their branch with a team who move between both retail and Post Office operations, so we need to see both in order to understand that and distribute costs appropriately. The form is quite detailed, we ask for information on various aspects of your business, including financial information about your business from before the impact of Covid-19 and the current financial position, information on Government financial support you have received and impact on staffing levels.

We are asking for this information so we can better understand your financial position fully, so please do review this and complete it.

I can’t access Branch Hub, how will I get my June remuneration top-up payments? (Updated 21 May and 15 May, originally published 6 May)
Please remember that to qualify for June remuneration support, by Wednesday 3 June you must have registered on Branch Hub and completed the forms related to cash declarations, branch trading statements and opening hours. Here is the link to Branch Hub to click on or paste into your browser via your PC or smartphone https://branchhub.postoffice.co.uk/bh.

Registering and providing the information required is very straightforward. It takes less than two minutes to register using your Smart ID, which is the first four digits of your Horizon log-in, and the forms to complete are available now through a button on the Branch Hub homepage. Based on Postmasters’ feedback, we have updated the helpful video which takes you through the registration process step by step. If you have any issues registering please contact the Branch Hub team by email. You can also contact your Area Manager who will help you.

When you’ve registered, remember your Smart ID, password and security questions as this will prevent problems accessing Branch Hub in future. If you incorrectly submit your password five times you will be locked out and won’t be able to use the password reset form, so you will need to contact the Branch Hub team to get your account unlocked.


 

21 May

I can’t access Branch Hub, how will I get my top-up payments? (Updated 21 May and 15 May, originally published 6 May)
Please remember that to qualify for June remuneration support, by Wednesday 3 June you must have registered on Branch Hub and completed the forms related to cash declarations, branch trading statements and opening hours. Here is the link to Branch Hub to click on or paste into your browser via your PC or smartphone https://branchhub.postoffice.co.uk/bh.

Registering and providing the information required is very straightforward. It takes less than two minutes to register using your Smart ID, which is the first four digits of your Horizon log-in, and the forms to complete are available now through a button on the Branch Hub homepage. There is a helpful video which takes you through the registration process step by step and if you have any issues registering please contact the Branch Hub team by email. You can also contact your Area Manager who will help you.

When you’ve registered, remember your Smart ID, password and security questions as this will prevent problems accessing Branch Hub in future. If you incorrectly submit your password five times you will be locked out and won’t be able to use the password reset form, so you will need to contact the Branch Hub team to get your account unlocked.

How do I know you’ve received my completed June remuneration form?
Once you have completed the form on Branch Hub, you will see a screen with a reference number to confirm we’ve received it. Our Agent Remuneration team keeps all forms received on record. We've had some reports that if a Postmaster goes back to the June remuneration form on their next visit to Branch Hub, having already completed it, the page will have been refreshed and all the tick boxes will appear blank. That does not mean you need to do it again. To provide additional reassurance, we will start sending Postmasters an email from tomorrow (Friday 22 May) to confirm we’ve received your completed form.

How will these hardship payments work and how much can Postmasters receive? (Updated 21 May and 15 May, originally published 6 May)
We hope to share further details on this next week. This is a very complex process to get right and we are continuing to work through the details. Any hardship payments we make are dependent on sales made in May, so we can only assess requests after the trading period has ended.

The payments are intended for a small number of branches that may still struggle because, for example, they are not eligible for the Government support. In order for us to assess this we will provide a template that a Postmaster will use to provide to us financial information about their business from before the impact of Covid-19 and their current financial position, taking account of any Government grants and schemes they have benefited from. We will then use this information to assess whether they will qualify for a hardship payment.

It is important to stress that we do not expect there to be many branches that will qualify for a payment – we expect many branches will be receiving remuneration quite close (or indeed higher in some cases) than that before Covid-19, and some have fixed remuneration that is being maintained and many will have received support directly from the Government schemes. This will mean that not all branches will be eligible to apply – we will confirm the specific criteria for this as soon as we can and make the template available at the same time.


 

15 May

What actions do I need to take to qualify for the June remuneration support?
Please remember that to qualify for June remuneration support, by Wednesday 3 June you must have registered on Branch Hub and completed the forms related to cash declarations, branch trading statements and opening hours. We’re asking you do this as we see Branch Hub as the best way to provide better support to you and make things easier for you when it comes to supporting you to run your branch.

We do understand you may need some flexibility so you can ask for a temporary change to the frequency or timing of these trading compliance activities – we will work through each request to support you.

Why are you making Postmasters sign up to Branch Hub in order to receive support from Post Office? (Updated, originally published 6 May)
We’re developing Branch Hub for Postmasters so you have a one-stop shop which makes it quicker, easier and more convenient for you to run and manage your branch(es). Branch Hub enables Postmasters to access the information and support they need from Post Office to run their business in one place, including updating their branch hours, particularly during this difficult period. It also enables Post Office to identify which branches may need tailored support based on local circumstances. Ultimately being registered on Branch Hub allows Post Office to provide better support.

I can’t access Branch Hub, how will I get my top-up payments? (Updated, originally published 6 May)
Here is the link to Branch Hub to click on or paste into your browser via your PC or smartphone https://branchhub.postoffice.co.uk/bh. Registering and providing the information required is very straightforward. It takes less than two minutes to register using your Smart ID and the forms to complete are available now. There is a helpful video which takes you through the registration process step by step and if you have any issues registering please contact the Branch Hub team by email. You can also contact your Area Manager who will help you.

How will these hardship payments work and how much can Postmasters receive? (Updated, originally published 6 May)
We will be providing further guidance on this shortly, well in advance of the June remuneration payment at the end of the month.  The payments are intended for a small number of branches that may still struggle because, for example, they are not eligible for the Government support.

In order for us to assess this we will provide a template that a Postmaster will use to provide to us financial information about their business from before the impact of Covid-19 and their current financial position, taking account of any Government grants and schemes they have benefited from. We will then use this information to assess whether they will qualify for a hardship payment.

It is important to stress that we do not expect there to be many branches that will qualify for a payment – we expect many branches will be receiving remuneration quite close (or indeed higher in some cases) than that before Covid-19, and some have fixed remuneration that is being maintained and many will have received support directly from the Government schemes. This will mean that not all branches will be eligible to apply – we will confirm the specific criteria for this as soon as we can and make the template available at the same time – recognising that any payment is dependent upon sales made in May and will only be confirmed once we have competed remuneration processing in June.

What about the Government financial support for the self-employed?
The Government has released information about financial support for self-employed people. Grants are being available through the Self Employed Income Support Scheme and you may be eligible to receive funding for your business. Please read further information about the scheme here on the Gov.uk website.


 

6 May

Your announcement today only covers the period up to June. What happens after June?
We are reviewing support on a month by month basis. We need to take account of the latest UK Government advice, any possible measures to ease restrictions on people’s movements and ongoing impact on income.

Why have you decided not to guarantee variable remuneration for June, compared with April and May?
As you know, the support we are providing for April and May applies to all independent Postmasters, irrespective of whether your branch is open, has reduced hours or has closed and takes us to the end of May. The purpose of this was to give you immediate financial reassurance in what was a very unstable situation.

Remuneration paid at the end of June is based upon sales in May. We have spent time looking at the complex and detailed data we have across the network, covering the huge variety of size and scale of our branches, taking into account the drop in income across the network and building in long term planning as we don’t know how long the current situation will last.

Throughout April we have seen sales levels of around 65%. Variable remuneration is based upon these sales levels and therefore any support we provide must reflect what is affordable. Guaranteeing levels of 90% when sales are at 65% is not sustainable. We believe a top up based on the sales in your branch is fair. If sales pick up in May, June remuneration will reflect this and the 15% top up will be worth more to branches.

As a publicly owned organisation, we also have a duty to ensure that support provided by Post Office takes account of the support Government are already providing for businesses. For example, we continue to be flexible on reduced opening hours so that Postmasters can provide services for the vulnerable, elderly and isolated, while taking advantage of Government schemes, such as the recently extended staff furlough arrangements, which you may seek to use for your employees.

As we’ve previously committed, branches who currently receive fixed remuneration will continue to receive that in their June payments, even if they are closed.

How does this 15% top up to variable remuneration work?
We recognise that footfall is likely to still be down in May compared with what it was projected to be pre-Covid 19. So independent Postmasters and commercial partners will be able to benefit from a top up of up to 15% of their variable remuneration, based on May’s trading for that branch. The 15% will be applied to the variable remuneration generated in the branch, capped at 90% of the pre Covid average.

If a branch’s average 4-week trading variable remuneration (Pre-Covid 19) was £1,000:

  • Branch achieves £500 then the top-up will be £75.00
  • Branch achieves £650 then the top-up will be £97.50
  • Branch achieves £850 then the top-up will be £50.00
  • Branch achieves £900 then no top-up provided

This includes taking into account increased remuneration rates that came into effect from 1 April 2020, and will be capped at 90% of average remuneration based on the same values we used to calculate May’s package, albeit for a 4-week trading period.

Are you in effect forcing me to open my branch in May if I want to receive remuneration in June?
No. The vast majority of branches are open though some will be operating with reduced hours. We really appreciate that many independent Postmasters continue to stay open in order to serve their local community and provide essential services to customers, despite knowing that footfall will remain down in May. The announcement today enables them to plan ahead. For those branches that are struggling to open, or will have to remain closed in May, we will encourage them to apply for Government support. We are also looking at making short-term hardship payments to provide immediate relief to some branches that have significant financial issues, having first ensured that they have accessed government support if they are eligible.

How will these hardship payments work and how much can Postmasters receive?
We recognise there may be some Postmasters that may still struggle, e.g. because you are not eligible for Government support, so we are planning to make hardship payments to a small number of Postmasters. We’re still working through the eligibility criteria and process for this and will share more information shortly, well in advance of the June remuneration payment at the end of the month.

What happens if I open my branch midway through May, will I only receive remuneration based on the days that my branch operated?
The top up will be based on the sales in the branch irrespective of how much the branch is open.  The postmaster responsible for any branch that has to close may be getting additional government support and can apply to be assessed for a hardship payment if they have significant financial issues.

Why are you making Postmasters sign up to your Branch Hub in order to receive support from Post Office?
Branch Hub enables Postmasters to receive the information and support they need from Post Office to run their business, including updating their branch hours, particularly during this difficult period. It also enables Post Office to identify which branches may need tailored support based on local circumstances. Ultimately being registered on Branch Hub allows Post Office to provide better support.

I can’t access Branch Hub, how will I get my top-up payments?
Registering and providing the information required is very straightforward. We have provided guidance on One and there are also videos that will walk you through this. You can also contact your Area Manager who will help you.

Why aren’t the Government funding this?
Government are providing support to Postmasters through the various schemes that have been announced. This is support above and beyond that, which is funded by Post Office.

What about Postmasters whose branches have had to close (because they are run by Postmasters or assistants who are over 70 or have underlying health conditions and they have not been able to appoint someone else to run the branch) due to the 12 week self-isolation – where do they need to go for support?
Branches who have closed have the guaranteed support for April and May. Every Postmaster by now will have been able to understand what other Government support is available, and may well have received funds or made cost savings. If your branch has a significant financial issue, you can contact us once we have confirmed the process for consideration for a hardship payment.

Do fixed payments remain – even for closed branches?
We will continue to pay fixed remuneration for all branches who receive it in June.


 

23 April

What about my remuneration in June and beyond? (first published 1 April)
As you know, the current support we are providing applies to all independent postmasters irrespective of whether their branch is open, has reduced hours or has closed, and takes us to the end of May. The purpose of this was to bring some immediate financial reassurance to Postmasters in what was a very unstable situation.

We anticipate it will be in early May (or sooner if possible, recognising the importance of helping you to plan) before we’ll be able to update on any financial support for June remuneration onwards. We need to understand the most recent predictions around trading performance and branch closures to determine the best way to support you, your businesses and your customers at this difficult time.

Why can’t you let us know about June remuneration any sooner?
Our revenue (and your remuneration) at the end of June is based upon the sales made in May, so, as we hope you can appreciate, making critical decisions about what support is required versus what is affordable is dependent upon us understanding this picture. We must try to make sure that decisions we make now do not impact our ability to provide support throughout the crisis especially as we don’t know the likely duration.

We are giving you this context to the work we are doing to look at financial support for postmasters at this time, as want to be completely open about the process we are following and the steps we need to take over the coming weeks. Currently we're looking at the data that we have across the network which is complex – the huge variety of size and scale of branches means that working out the best option for financial support is not a quick and easy job, and it will take time to get it right. The design of future financial support will also require our Board and shareholder to confirm agreement, so we have to build in the time to allow this to happen.

If I’m also receiving Government financial support, will this affect my remuneration?
As a Government organisation, we have a duty to make sure that support provided by Post Office takes account of the support Government are already providing for businesses. For example, we continue to be flexible on reduced opening hours so that postmasters can provide services for the vulnerable, elderly and isolated, while taking advantage of Government schemes like the recently extended staff furlough arrangements.

What is current business performance looking like and how could that affect my remuneration in June and onwards?
Since Easter, we’ve seen a stabilisation of the network with branch closures running on average at around 1,000 at any given time. This has meant we have approximately 90% of the network open for customers, which is a fantastic achievement. We are seeing on average a drop in transactions by around 40%, with income down by a similar amount but naturally this varies from branch to branch. Within this average figure there is significant variation, with mails trading revenue down by 20%, banking around half of what we’d expect and travel currently at zero. Clearly this means we’ve got to make some difficult decisions around our costs going forward.

Where can I get employment advice on the Government help available? (first published 9 April)
The measures announced by the Government to help limited companies and the self-employed may provide you with additional financial support and help with matters regarding your employees’ pay that you are looking for. We have updated the summaries of the Government support available to you here, which include links to further information, including the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.

Members of the NFSP can access employment advice and support through its partner organisation, HR4UK. HR4UK can provide guidance on staffing and your responsibilities as an employer, including information on furloughing/Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. More information is available on the NFSP website and here through HR4UK, or on 01273 452324.


 

9 April

Where can I get employment advice on the Government help available?
The measures announced by the Government to help limited companies and the self-employed may provide you with additional financial support and help with matters regarding your employees’ pay that you are looking for. We have summarised the Government support available to you here, which includes links to further information, including the Government’s Job Retention Scheme. 

Members of the NFSP can access employment advice and support through its partner organisation, HR4UK. HR4UK can provide guidance on staffing and your responsibilities as an employer, including information on furloughing/Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. More information is available on the NFSP website and here through HR4UK, or on 01273 452324.


 

3 April

How did you calculate the April/May remuneration for the remuneration guarantee?
You can find further information about how April and May remuneration is calculated here.


1 April 

What is the remuneration guarantee you are offering me?
We can confirm that April's remuneration (based on March’s sales) for independent Postmasters will be topped up to reflect a monthly average based on 3 months' trading before the Covid-19 impact, excluding Christmas. May's remuneration (based on April’s sales) will be topped up to an equivalent of 90% of the monthly average. The rate of remuneration will reflect the previously announced increases that come into effect from today (1 April). You can find further information about how April and May remuneration is calculated here

Will the remuneration guarantee affect my ability to get any other funding that the Government is providing?

This remuneration guarantee is being funded by Post Office to help you to stay open, and is in addition to the Government support. The Government, our shareholder, is requesting that Post Offices stay open and continue to provide essential services, while maintaining safety of Postmasters, their teams in branch and our customers. The measures already announced by the Government to help limited companies and the self-employed may also provide additional financial support, and further help if you do have to close your branch. We have summarised the Government support available to you here

If I close or reduce my opening hours, will my guaranteed remuneration be affected?
The payment will be made irrespective of whether you are open or not or have reduced your hours. We have decided to include all branches in the remuneration guarantee, even if they have closed or reduced their hours, because we recognise that some Postmasters have had to make that choice due to circumstances beyond their control. We trust Postmasters to make the right decision for their own health and the health of their teams and customers, while wanting to maintain service as much as possible. 

Why are you offering 100% guaranteed remuneration in April and then 90% in May?
We know that customer numbers have declined, so far down 35% in the last week. This decline in customer numbers directly impacts revenue. The remuneration guarantee is being funded by Post Office, so we have been trying find an affordable and sustainable way to provide the support you need on top of what the Government have already announced. 

What about my remuneration in June and beyond?
The package of support we have announced is designed to give you certainty in the short term. Support beyond May will be kept under review as further public health advice is issued by the Government for June onwards and we better understand customer behaviour and impact on income. Rest assured as soon as we are able to communicate support beyond May we will.

When will the guaranteed remuneration be paid
The guaranteed remuneration will be paid at the end of each month consistent with the normal schedule for remuneration. 

Where is the incentive to keep my branch open, if you’re offering guaranteed remuneration whether or not we’re open or closed?
We are trying to do the right thing and make the right decisions with care and consideration. We know you have been asking for clarity around the financial support we can offer you and reassurance about your remuneration, so our priority has been to offer all 8,000 independent branches in the network a package which is designed to give you certainty in the short term. 

We have decided to include all branches in the remuneration guarantee, even if they have closed or reduced their hours, because we recognise that some Postmasters have had to make that choice due to circumstances beyond their control. We trust Postmasters to make the right decision for their own health and the health of their teams and customers, while wanting to maintain service as much as possible. 

Is this guaranteed remuneration just for independent agents?
Yes, this remuneration guarantee benefits around 8,000 independent Postmasters. Fixed remuneration will be unaffected and payments will be maintained for branches (including 1,600 outreaches) that receive these payments.

What happens if my transactional volumes have increased above the average, will I get paid the higher amount?
If the calculated amount based on actual transactions undertaken is higher than the average, your remuneration will be that higher amount. 

Why didn’t you use the March, April, May from last year on like-for-like basis to calculate the remuneration guarantee?
By using more recent periods we have been able to take account of the increases in volume and remuneration rates that came in last year for banking transactions.


27 March

What does the Government funding package mean for me and my branch?
We are working through the detail of the Government support that has already been announced for small businesses and the self-employed.  This is a really complex area due to the variety of branches from the self-employed to larger companies and we are working with NFSP to provide helpful advice and support to you all.  We are also identifying any gaps so that we can speak to Government about additional support that needs to be provided to Postmasters. Our CEO Nick Read has had several conversations with BEIS and UKGI today and will continue to explain our situation to Ministers.

If you need further information about the Government funding and how it applies to your business and individual circumstances, here is a transcript of the Chancellor’s announcement on support measures for the self-employed, or you can visit the self-employed help page and other help the self-employed can get page on the Gov.uk website.


22 March 

How do I access Government grants for businesses?
These will be administered by local authorities who will contact you directly and more information can be found on the Treasury website – we will provide you with a summary and further advice when the Government clarifies further. 

How will the 12 month business rate holiday be organised?
This will automatically be applied by local authorities.

How can I pay my team members’ wages?
Under the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during the period. Postmasters will need to designate those staff members affected and notify HMRC of their identity and pay details.