Pandemic Business Continuity

Coronavirus: Pandemic Business Continuity Planning

Major Updates:

The government has announced new even stricter measures for social distancing in what is effectively a lockdown

Leave home only for: 

  • Shopping for basic necessities
  • One form of exercise a day
  • Any medical need / care for a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, only if absolutely necessary  (now changed to 'where this absolutely cannot be done from home')

N.B. Credit unions have been classified as essential services right across the UK so are able to remain open during the lockdown (credit unions are named in the guidance here). 

For the absence of doubt: 

  • Schools in England, Scotland and Wales are closed for all but certain groups of children (including children of key workers, vulnerable children and children with special educational needs from Friday 20th March)

  • Pubs, cafes, restaurants, leisure centres, gyms, and shops of non-essential goods have been closed

  • Those with the most serious health conditions must be "largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks"

For more information please see the government guidance on social distancing here.


Key workers: 

The UK Government has provided a definition of a ‘key worker’ which includes certain credit union personnel and this applies to England as schools policy is devolved
  • Welsh Government has adopted the same definition
  • Scottish Government is allowing Local Authorities to define this at the local level (For more information click here)

Please see our key worker confirmation template which can be issued to staff to show to authorities when travelling or making childcare arrangements. 

Definition:
A key financial worker at a dual-regulated […] firm […] fulfils a role which is necessary for the firm to continue to provide essential daily financial services to consumers, or to ensure the continued functioning of market […] We only expect a limited number of people to be identified as being key financial services workers. Firms are best placed to decide which staff are essential for the provision of financial services.”

Regulatory Updates: Extensions to deadlines & other changes to submissions 

N.B. Credit unions should submit returns in line with the usual deadlines if practicable but the regulators are anticipating that a number of credit unions may face difficulties submitting these on time and has provided flexibility in these cases

Prudential Regulation Authority
  • Annual Return / Accounts - a two month extension has been granted until 31 May 2020.
  • Quarterly Return - A one month extension has been granted, also until 31 May 2020.
The PRA document providing these extensions can be found here
Financial Conduct Authority - Mutuals Team
  • Annual Accounts - The Mutuals Team within the FCA has granted a 3 month extension to the deadline for accounts to 30 June 2020.
  • Signatures - FCA has clarified that it will accept electronic signatures for all documents
  • Statutory declaration forms - FCA state that these do not need to be fully completed i.e. these do not need to be signed by a solicitor or notary etc.
  • Recording of charges - FCA ask that charge instruments are certified as a true copy but will accept electronic certification

No extension

Please note there is no confirmed extension for the FCA complaints return due 30 April 2020, we will update this page and email you should this change. 

FCA guidance consultation on payment deferrals

Many of you may have spotted the recent FCA guidance consultation relating to payment deferrals. ABCUL has quickly obtained clarification directly from the FCA that this guidance was never intended for credit unions, and as drafted only affects 'regulated credit agreements' which excludes credit union unsecured loans to members.

Nevertheless, ABCUL intends to respond to this consultation to support credit unions' exemption from this guidance and to ask for this exemption to be made even clearer. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about any of these regulatory matters please contact us on member@abcul.org to discuss. 

Currently we are experiencing a global pandemic crisis as SARS-CoV-2 (the virus) resulting in COVID-19 (the disease) has spread to most countries around the world. This is a new respiratory disease previously unseen in humans and is commonly referred to as the 'Coronavirus'. Pandemics are unpredictable in nature and credit unions need to prepare for potential disruption to their operations.

Some of the information here has been sourced from the NHS website (view here) which is updated regularly and we urge credit unions to check regularly for new or emerging advice and guidance.

As you'll understand, this is a rapidly evolving situation and we'll do our best to ensure this guide is up to date and include the items of emerging relevance and importance to our members.

Contents:

Background

What are the symptoms?

It can take up to 14 days for the symptoms of coronavirus to appear.
These symptoms may include:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath
  • Coronavirus can also cause more severe illness including:
  • pneumonia
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome
  • kidney failure

How is it spread?

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. You could get the virus if you:

  • come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing
  • touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on

Because it's a new illness, it is not known how easily the virus spreads from person to person. It is not known if someone can spread the virus before they show symptoms.

The virus may only survive a few hours if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.

Government Advice & Support

Advice

  • Leave home only for: 
    • Shopping for basic necessities
    • One form of exercise a day
    • Any medical need / care for vulnerable person
    • Travelling to and from work, only if absolutely necessary (now changed to 'where this absolutely cannot be done from home')
  • If someone becomes unwell – go home and stay at home

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds and more frequently, catch coughs and sneezes in tissues

  • Frequently clean and disinfect objects that are touched regularly

  • Use discretion when asking for proof of sickness from employees

  • If evidence required – those with symptoms can get an isolation note online (those living with someone with symptoms can also get an isolation note online)

  • Employees from defined vulnerable groups should be supported to stay at home and work where possible

Support

ABCUL has published a letter sent to HM Treasury on 23/03/2020 in collaboration with all other credit union sector trade bodies. This outlines our concerns and asks of UK government. You can find this letter here

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • Will pay employees wages up to 80% (max of £2,500 per month) for workers who on payroll but furloughed due to the outbreak

  • Available to any employer and backdated to 1st March

  • Designate any ‘furloughed’ employees and notify them of this

  • Will be able to apply through HMRC within a few weeks (setting up scheme now)

  • Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit increased by £20 per week from 6th April

  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

  • Delivered by the British Business Bank to support primarily small and medium-sized business to access bank lending and overdrafts

  • Government will provide guarantee on each loan to give lenders confidence to provide financing -  no charge to businesses or banks

Business Rates

Businesses which qualify for Small Business Rates Relief (including tapered relief) will be eligible for cash grants up to £10,000 from local authorities (they will write to you if you are eligible for the grant).

 More information about UK Government support for businesses can be found here.

Support for credit unions in Scotland

Scottish Business Rates

Business rates are devolved in Scotland, but the Scottish Government has announced a similar package of support similar to that of the UK Government – details here. It is up to local Council’s to distribute this, so we would recommend you speak to your Council about it.

We’re aware that it might be the case that credit unions receive rates relief on a discretionary basis, so we would be interested to know whether your Council have offered support via this funding – please email karen.hurst@abcul.org

Third Sector Resilience Fund

This is a £20 million emergency fund which we have confirmed is open to credit unions. The fund will provide grants between £5,000-£100,000. In addition there will be up to a further £5m available in fully flexible, 0% interest loans starting at £50,000.

For more information please visit the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations' (SCVO's) website here.

Scottish Government Loan Fund

Scottish Government have now announced details of their £2 million loan fund. Please click the button below for more details. 

Support for credit unions in Wales

Welsh government has pledged £1.1 billion to help businesses 'weather the storm' of the coronavirus.

Business Rates

All businesses with a rateable value of below £12,000 will receive a grant of £10,000

Small / Medium Size business grant

Welsh government is also offering grants of £10,000 for those businesses with 0-9 employees and up to £100,000 for those businesses with 10-249 people

For more information please see the Welsh Government website here.

Annual General Meeting Issues

A number of credit unions have contacted us to express concern around postponing their AGM and potentially breaching their own rules due to the Coronavirus.

ABCUL has contacted the FCA for a stance (as both a regulator and the registrar for credit union rules) and we will update this page once this has been obtained. However, there is the separate risk that a member may attempt to take a credit union to court for breach of the rules. However, the likelihood of a member taking such action and being successful is extremely low considering the circumstances.

If possible, a credit union may be able to set up the AGM through remote channels but otherwise they should take a common-sense view and balance the legal risks of breaching their own rules against the risks of spreading the virus.

The Co-operatives UK has issued some guidance on this topic here

Financial Conduct Authority's stance on AGM postponement

As promised, we have updated this page with the FCA's stance below: 


"Hello Daniel

Thank you for your email.

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are aware that some societies are considering a number of options, including postponing scheduled member meetings, such as Annual General Meetings (AGMs). Societies are concerned that this could lead to them breaching their own rules or legislative requirements.  

Where the current Government advice on the COVID-19 outbreak does not prohibit a society holding a meeting, we appreciate that there may be some instances where, given a society may have vulnerable members, there may be a desire to minimise any risk. 

It is for societies to reach their own decision as to whether to go ahead with any planned meeting, taking in account any relevant Government guidance and their own individual circumstances, and it would be for societies to take reasonable steps to ensure they meet any obligations they are under as soon as reasonably practicable. Societies will want to consider alternative arrangements such as making use of video conferencing where permitted.

The rules of an individual society govern the relationship between a society and its members. It is important members are afforded the ability to exercise their rights under the rules of a society. Societies may want to take their own advice to consider any risks arising from action taken by members as a result of a breach of their own rules. The FCA has no role to play in determining disputes over society rules.

Where, following Government guidance, the postponement of a general meeting results in a breach of a legislative requirement, it may fall to the FCA to make a decision as registering authority as to what if any action we take. We do not generally consider it to be in the public interest to take action in this context where we can see that a society is taking steps to ensure they meet the legislative obligation as soon as reasonably practicable.

Where a society postpones a meeting resulting in a breach of a legislative requirement, they should notify us of their decision and proposed plan of action."

N.B. Merely postponing an AGM would not lead to a breach of a legislative requirement so in most instances you will not need to contact the FCA. 

If you wish to contact the FCA regarding this message, please use the email address: Mutual.Societies@fca.org.uk 

Annual Returns

Annual accounts and returns do not need to be agreed or approved by members. Credit unions are perfectly able to submit these to the regulatory authorities (i.e. through BEEDs and the Mutual Societies Portal) and later have the membership ratify them.

Remote Working Considerations

Holding meetings 

Credit unions and their boards will still need to hold meetings from time to time, however, in accordance with government advice, these should be held remotely where possible. ABCUL has produced a quick round-up of different options available here.

HR / Health and Safety Considerations

It's probably the last thing you thought about when you decided to abandon the office and start working from home. However, our members have shared a number of great documents on health and safety considerations on the ABCUL discussion forums i.e.

Members' queries

Communicating with and fielding queries from members is inevitably going to be more difficult with a reduced number of staff in the office or in some cases complete office closures. Potentially compounding this is that many credit unions may also be experiencing an increased volume of queries as members seek to ensure that services will be available to them over the coming weeks and months.

The first priority should be to reduce the number of repetitive and generic queries. One way of doing this is by proactively emailing members and providing a COVID-19 specific page on the website complete with a set of FAQs which are obviously up-to-date, aware, and mindful of the present situation. Your communications should highlight all of those operations possible for a member to carry out without intervention from a member of staff (see advice on communications with members below).

Another challenge here is how to redirect these queries that come to a central point in your credit union to your staff who are dispersed and working at home. Several credit unions have shared the VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) companies they use to facilitate a call center for remote staff in this thread. You should also encourage keeping lines of communication open between staff members and identify any common trends in queries and phone traffic.

It may also be worth looking into alternative methods of contact and ways of fielding queries. Chat bots offered by the likes of CUApps or Nivo (other solutions are also available) can potentially reduce hundreds of possible questions and answers into one interaction. Live chats may also offer more flexible way of providing human interaction with members where you have a remote workforce. 

Supplier contact information: 

CUApps: https://www.cuapps.co.uk/
NIVO: nivohub.com/credit-unions

Credit Union Digital Services Providers - Response to COVID-19

Credit unions are well aware of the need to hone their digital offering for members, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the need to be accessible online. We have compiled information on a number of different suppliers offering services to credit unions below and summed up their approach (if any) to the current crisis. 

Credit Union Digital Services and Support Information (Version 3) 

Forebearance / Payment Holidays

Credit unions may wish to provide forbearance and / or payment holidays to members during this difficult time. ABCUL members are currently discussing this on the ABCUL forums here. The Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) have recently published further guidance specifically addressing the COVID-19 situation and which status code should be used for COVID-19 related payment breaks. 

How will this affect the member's credit rating? 

According to newly published guidance - not at all. Credit unions have been advised to continue to report a 0 for all COVID-19 related payment holidays for accounts up to date prior to this crisis. Firms were previously advised to use the "U" code but this guidance has now been superseded. To read the full revised guidance note click here

Curtains users

We have been informed by Kesho that a recently released update allows credit unions to specify and freeze a status code on members' accounts reducing the amount of manual overriding of the system necessary to provide payment breaks. Please contact Kesho for more information. 

Reporting guidance has previously been created by SCOR (Steering Committee On Reciprocity) and is included in the 'Data quality reference guide' which you can download using the link below. This document is an industry and sector wide reporting guidance document. 

The section on payment holidays confirms: "Payment holidays can be a feature of a lending product or where the lender chooses to offer a payment holiday in exceptional circumstances outside of the customer's control, for instance Acts of God. During this payment holiday the account should not be recorded as having any form of detrimental arrears."

This covers a multitude of potential scenarios, illness being one of them. It is down to each organisation to decide how and if they wish to allow any forbearance and at what stage.

Section 6 of the 'Data Quality Reference Guide' guidance covers payment holidays. 

Benefits & Advice for members 

Where members are experiencing financial distress due to a loss of income, it would be well worth signposting what benefits may be available to them. One of our members has shared this round-up of the recent changes to benefits following the outbreak of the pandemic. 

As well as benefits, there are a number of other areas of financial relief that members may not have considered such as having other payments suspended from council tax to sky sports packages. Penny Post has kindly shared a member facing page listing a number of ways members could cut their expenditure which they are happy for other credit unions to use and adapt.

Providing Access to the unbanked

Many community credit unions serve a disproportionate number of financially excluded people who in some cases are unbanked and rely on the credit union for cash services

Credit unions should make plans for these members to provide some kind of continuity should the credit union close its offices and move to remote working.

One option that ABCUL has explored is to work with a prepaid card provider, and we have been in contact with both Optimus and Engage to explore how quickly they would be able to onboard a new credit union and start issuing cards to members.

Here are their responses:


Hi Daniel

Thanks for your email.

Indeed I sent out a communication to our credit union partners a couple of days ago relating to this issue.

Its imperative that we ensure all Credit Unions are able to distribute fundsto their members in the event of a lockdown or isolation. We have taken some significant steps to ensure we provide as much help as possible including ensuring all have the capability to issue 'temporary' Engage Accounts to their members, extra back up for the Engage call centre, quicker delivery time for cards, accounts are opened instantly and can receive funds immediately, and we are in the process of urgently updating the Engage mobile app so that members can get real time notifications when payments are made from the CU, real time balance checks etc.

I am in constant communication with all current Credit Union partners and offering help where required and I have introduced an express set up facility for the issuing of cards and accounts for any non-Engage Credit Union.


Hi Robert / Daniel,

Just to send you both a quick update and reconfirm our plans to support this initiative.

I have been in talks today with Mastercard, First Data (our card processor) and other suppliers. All have affirmed their commitment to support us and ABCUL to complete a new card project as quickly as possible.

I am awaiting a number of updates to timelines on certain key tasks on our project plan. Therefore, it might be tomorrow before I have a full picture to share with you.

Our best estimate at the moment is that once agreed, we could deliver cards in 4-6 weeks depending on the back office IT provider.

Contact information: 

Engage: https://engageaccount.com/contact/ 
Geoff Leech - Managing Director: +44 (0)7719 549 612

Optimus:  http://www.optimuscards.com/contact/

Precautionary advice to credit union employees regarding prevention/hygiene

In cases of managing major viral infections and other epidemics, it is essential to stay healthy and hand hygiene is of paramount importance. Employers should communicate the key hygiene messages to staff to assist in the prevention of the spread of a virus. There are a number of Public Health England posters available here (you will have to register to get access to these – this takes only a minute).

Key areas to consider include:
  • encouraging a respiratory hygiene or cough/sneeze etiquette approach;
  • articulating a correct hand washing procedure;
  • ensuring there are adequate supplies of infection control supplies (e.g., tissues, bins, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitisers);
  • considering non-essential travel restrictions where there are affected geographic areas;
  • considering reasonable options for individuals who may be deemed at high risk (particularly employees with health concerns or who are pregnant).

Clarify the credit unions’ procedures and policies in relation to attendance and absence

Where absence becomes problematic, it is important to review and formally implement the absence and sick leave policies in place in the credit union. Credit unions need to re-communicate the relevant policies to employees and reinforce the pertinent aspects of the policies.

In advance of any potential increase in absence, it is important that all employees are made fully familiar with policy requirements, particularly around what constitutes acceptable reasons for absence and the notification requirements. At the time of writing the UK Government has reduced the time that employees need to be sick before receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from four days in a row to the first day of illness. UK government has asked that employers be as sympathetic as possible to sick employees at this time. 

Someone who is capable of work (and not sick at that time) but is known or reasonably suspected of being infected or contaminated may also be entitled to SSP. As it may deter people who should be self-isolating (or an infection risk) from taking unpaid leave, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has stated that an employee will be entitled to SSP if they are self-isolating on written advice from a GP (or NHS 111). The entitlement to SSP depends on this written advice – if the employee was not advised in writing to self-isolate, they may not be entitled to SSP.

Employees who have travelled to areas affected by COVID-19 and who have been in contact with individuals who have the Coronavirus or indeed any virus of special concern should notify the credit union before attending for work. Follow the NHS guidance for advice on recommended quarantine procedures.

If they are not experiencing severe symptoms, it may be possible for employees to work remotely during a period of quarantine. If an employee is absent due to a fear of contracting the virus an employer must consider the risks and consider whether the employee is a vulnerable employee. Where there is no increased risk for the employee, the employer can request them to attend work.

At some point, based on public health advice, certain aspects of policy and procedure may require adjustment in accordance with the situation as it evolves.

Business Continuity Considerations

Assumptions:
  • Supply chain and contractors are likely to be similarly impacted and may not be able to provide services, or only at reduced capacity.
  • Essential services – such as fire and police may be reduced
  • Borders may be closed, and even domestic travel may be severely restricted
  • A pandemic would likely be drawn out over a significant period of time
  • Disruption is human-resource orientated and credit unions can expect unusually high levels of employee absence

Business Continuity Considerations for Credit Unions

  • Has a senior individual and deputy been identified as responsible for preparedness and response planning?
  • Have essential staff and critical external dependencies (e.g. IT suppliers) required to main credit union operations been identified?
  • Have contingencies been arranged for the loss of essential staff and support?
  • Has suitable hygiene, absence and isolation advice been issued to staff?
  • Has the credit union considered the impact of not only personal illness but family member illness, community containment measures and quarantines, public transportation closures on staff?
  • Have you identified staff and volunteers (as well as members where appropriate) with underlying conditions and incorporated their requirements into your plan?
  • Has the credit union considered continuity of services for members in the event of potential closure of the main office / branch?
  • Can back office functions can be performed flexibly in terms of hours worked and location (e.g. working from home)?
  • Are you able to implement guidelines to modify the amount of face-to-face contact between staff, volunteers and members (such as hand-shaking, seating in meetings, shared workstations) with reference to government guidelines?
  • Have you considered the need that other staff may be, if willing, required to work longer hours to keep the business running? You will need to comply with working time legislation here to ensure appropriate hours are worked and breaks taken.
  • Are emergency contact numbers and details up to date?

Questions for the board to consider 

It's more important than ever for boards to have a firm handle on the credit union's business as we enter into particularly testing times for credit unions across the UK. We've put together a separate guide specifically for boards and the questions that they will be seeking answers for during the ongoing crisis.

Questions for board members guide

Furloughing information / Template Letter

Furloughing is where an employee remains on the payroll but is unable to continue working as their place of business has shut and they are unable to work from home.

Credit unions have been classified as an essential service and are able to remain open however in some cases the credit union may need to shut an office and some members of staff may not be able to continue working remotely.

UK Government is providing 80% of furloughed employees salaries up to £2,500 per month for up to three months which can be backdated to 1st March 2020. This will be claimed back by the employer once the scheme becomes operational (which the government expects will be the end of April).  Employers will be expected to continue paying furloughed staff their wages in the meantime.The minimum length of time an employee can be furloughed is three weeks.

HMRC are yet to provide full details of the scheme which the Government hopes to be made available within the next two weeks. Below is some further information on furloughing and a template letter for employees. 

Basic Furlough Information
Template letter to employees
Section of government guidance on support for employers on furloughing
FAQ on Furloughing provided by Peninsula


GDPR Issues

In most cases the current situation will not affect the types of data that credit unions process and the lawful bases of that processing. However, we have received a number of queries around credit unions having to process that data in a different way and transferring data that would normally only be processed within the office to remote locations. Naturally there needs to be a risk-based approach taken by each credit union in terms of balancing its legal obligations against its ability to continue its operations.

Here are some of the questions we received from credit unions:

Can my staff access process personal data from home? 

Yes, the only difference here is the physical location which does raise a number of considerations around security and continuing to fulfill members data rights, however, GDPR does not make a distinction between onsite and remote working.

Should I post documents e.g. bank reconciliation to staff / board? 

Some personal information will always be entrusted to the postal system, however, sending large amounts of personal information in a single envelop or package is advised against due to the risk of it being stolen or lost.

There are ways to make this more secure by sending these documents as signed for and marking the envelope ‘Private and Confidential – To be opened by Addressee Only’. This can then be placed inside a larger envelope with only the correct name and address on it. In addition you would want the recipient to confirm receipt for each item sent. Where possible you should send digital versions of the documents through a secure channel instead. 

How should staff / board access information? 

Sharing / Accessing data

The preferred method is through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to the credit union's servers. This way the connection is secure and minimal data is leaving the controlled environment of the credit union's own IT arrangements.

Where it's not possible to use a VPN, you should use a secure method of sharing. One way to achieve this would be to encrypt the file through a program like 7-Zip and then provide the password to the file using another method (e.g. over the phone.).

A number of propriety and cloud-based solutions are also available. 

Work / Personal Machines

Data is more often compromised when 'at rest' i.e. once it's arrived on someone's machine rather than during transit. Where possible staff should process information using credit union issued machines and laptops in line with the credit union IT policy which are used only for work-related tasks.Operating software and software used to mitigate attacks (e.g. anti-virus software, firewalls etc.) need to be kept up-to-date.

Where members of staff are using personal machines the credit union can mitigate the risks by asking the member of staff to follow guidelines around IT security and limiting access to other potential users through different logins and password-protected folders.

Update: Please see this Q&A from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)  which generally takes a measured approach in balancing data protection standards against the demands on organisations resources during a difficult time. We note that the ICO's offices are closed right now and are experiencing their own business continuity challenges.

National Cyber Security Centre - Guidance

The NCSC has warned organisations that criminals are adapting their tactics to take advantage of the current situation. This is compounded by the fact that many companies have made a sudden switch to remote working and are more vulnerable right now. Please see their guidance on home working and coronavirus related scams here.

Communicating with members about the Coronavirus

As there is a significant level of public unease in relation to the Coronavirus it is critical that any public information issued should be factual, balanced and sensitive to the current situation. Before issuing any communication, you should ensure that it is in keeping with the Government and health authorities’ advice on the matter.

  • In advance of any disruption to services, you may wish to advise members about how they can use the credit union’s services without physically visiting the offices (e.g. phone, email or online banking etc.).
  • It is recommended to use a single webpage (e.g. cuname.uk/covid19) to provide information on this topic. This webpage should be updated as the situation evolves. Using a single updated webpage lessens that chance that credit union members will access outdated information.
  • When sharing information via social media, it can be challenging to communicate a detailed, nuanced message. Please ensure anything posted is concise, factual and does not have the potential to misinform people who may not read all of the text.
  • Where possible, all social media posts should contain a link to the credit union’s website where more detailed information can be provided. Similarly, when dealing with queries on social media (on page or via private message), where possible direct queries to the information page on your website.
  • In the event of a large number of queries on this topic, you may wish to incorporate a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on your website.
  • Do not engage in any speculation in relation to this topic. Keep any responses factual and aligned to the information which you have issued. Ensure the tone of any responses is reassuring and sensitive.
  • The current situation is evolving at a fast pace. Credit unions must ensure that they have the ability to update all of their communications channels quickly, so that they are providing the most relevant information. This is particularly relevant for updates which may need to be issued outside of office hours.
  • Where appropriate, a dedicated phone number and/or email address should be provided so that any members with further queries can contact the credit union directly.

Possible Statement for Website – Access to your Credit Union Account

In light of the ongoing national situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we would like to remind members about how they can transact with the credit union without physically visiting one of our offices.

You may wish to:

  • Speak to a Member of Staff – details here
  • Submit a query via email – details here
  • Use our Online Banking – details here about how to register or how to log in

For the latest information from the NHS in relation to the Coronavirus, please visit the NHS website at the link below

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Should there be any impact on credit union operations, we will provide updated information on our website and social media channels.

Possible Statement in the event of a decision to temporarily close an office 

Please note – this statement is to be used for GUIDANCE ONLY and must be updated to reflect the credit union’s individual situation and the evolving situation in relation to the Coronavirus.

In light of the ongoing situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the public offices of XZY Credit Union have been temporarily closed. This closure affects the credit unions offices in X, Y and Z area. This decision has been taken in order to limit the potential impact which this virus may have in the local community.

According to XXX, Manager/ CEO of XXX Credit Union Limited

“In light of the current situation and in the interests of public safety, we have taken a decision to temporarily close our offices. We understand that this will inconvenience many of our members but we believe that it is appropriate in light of the current situation with regard to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This decision has been made in the best interest of all of our members and the communities which we serve”.

INSERT DETAILS IN RELATION TO ACCESS TO ACCOUNTS – Example below,

The staff of the credit union are available to deal with member queries via phone (phone number) and email (email address). In addition, members are reminded that they may continue to access their accounts via the credit union’s website or App.

The credit union will continue to monitor the current situation and is in contact with the relevant authorities in relation to this matter. Updates to this situation will be made available on the credit union’s website and social media channels in the coming days.

If you have a query on this matter, please contact the credit union via email at xxx@xxx.uk  or phone 123 123 123 12

Looking after yourself

For many of us, switching to remote working has massively changed our lives and reduced the number of social interactions that we have on a day to day basis. Those that remain office-based in many cases will find themselves part of a skeleton crew and that their working environment is completely different to what it was a month ago. 

Compounding this, our personal lives and our lives outside of work have completely changed with the restrictions that have been placed on our social activities, hobbies, and personal freedoms for the greater good. Not to mention the additional stress that a global pandemic brings!

Now more than ever we need to ensure that we are looking after ourselves and, where possible, looking out for those around us. We are going to use this section guide to share resources that our members (that is you!) share with us but for now it's worth highlighting some essential tips to staying physically and mentally well.

Diet

Whilst many of us are on the hunt for the last carton of long-life milk or pack of toilet roll in the shop, where possible please don't forget the fruit and vegetables! Our diets have a huge impact on how we feel and how healthy we are (including our immune system), and where possible we all should be aiming to cook one wholesome meal each day and doing the best we can to continue to have a balanced diet. 

For those remote workers, of which I am one, it's tempting to constantly snack on what might by now be quite a full cupboard of various snacks and treats. This is not a good idea, trust me! It would be a worthwhile idea to have something else you do during your regular breaks to distract yourself, and to put some distance between you and those kitchen cupboards if you have the space to do so.

Just as important is to take on plenty of water and to stay hydrated! 

Exercise

It's now harder than ever but continuing to exercise is going to be key to looking after yourself over the coming weeks and months. For those not self-isolating, government advice is to continue exercising close to your home, that could mean going for a brisk walk or a run whilst keeping a good 2 meters distance between you and anyone else (as one who enjoys my personal space I'm hoping the guidelines stick). You do need to get your heart rate up for it to really count, with the NHS guidelines for exercise starting at 'moderate' activity. 

If you're unable to go outside it's surprising how much can be done at home without any equipment. Don't believe me? Google, well, YouTube is your friend here with a lifetimes' worth of home workout material for free (example here) - if you can put up with the adverts. Who knows - perhaps we can all emerge out of social distancing slightly fitter than before? 

Taking care your mental health

Diet and exercise as touched on above are a big part of the picture and will go a long way to tackling stress and anxiety but there are a number of simple steps you can take that can make a big difference to how you feel. 

  • Keep in touch - we may be in lockdown at the moment but it's important to keep in touch with all the people you would normally, family, friends, and colleagues. Give them a call or drop them a note, keep the lines of communication open - it's good for you. 
  • Talk about your feelings - if something is troubling you then talking about your feelings is a good way of taking charge of your well-being. Being listened to can make you feel supported, and it's a two way street, if you open up, others may do the same.
  • Take a break - A change of scene or pace is good for your mental health, that may mean taking 5 minutes away from your computer every so often during work, stretching your legs at lunch time, or going to bed early if you're tired. 
  • Accept the things you can't change - The Coronavirus pandemic has turned a lot of lives upside down, and as with many setbacks in life, the best approach is to accept and move on to the things you have more control over. 

Member / Staff recommended resources

  • Mind - Corona Virus and your well-being - Thanks to Shelia (Salford CU) for sending this on, a number of us here at ABCUL are taking some advice from this, really comprehensive piece.
  • NHS - Mental Health and Wellbeing - This is has a number of helpful resources, including a series of audio guides on such topics as anxiety, low confidence & assertiveness and uphelpful thinking. John of our parish recommends the breathing exercises particularly when trying to get to sleep. 
Please feel share your tips to remaining healthy and well to members@abcul.org.

All Members' Meeting recordings

23/03/2020

30/03/2020 
01/04/2020


CMutual

CMutual have provided an update to credit unions in relation to COVID-19 and has enhanced their Commercial Property and Liabilities insurance to cover contents removed to employees' homes temporarily for the crisis.


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