Outsourcers pool staff over public sector Covid-19 challenge

Hospital maintenance
Hospital maintenance (posed by model)
Photo: Prapat Aowsakorn/Shutterstock

The UK’s outsourcing giants are collaborating and sharing workers to enable the public sector to cope with the demands of the coronavirus crisis.

Companies such as Serco, Capita, Interserve and Mitie are in discussions with the Cabinet Office to provide workers in a bid to ensure continuity of public services.

According to Sky News the Cabinet Office has told the industry that it wants to create a “clearing house” through which furloughed employees of one business can be redeployed on a contract managed by a rival.

It is thought that such collaboration has already begun, in response to the need to maintain hospital, prison and justice services against a background of depleted workforces as illness and self-isolation take their toll.

Sky News said it had heard that the Cabinet Office had briefed outsourcers on plans for the staff pooling system this week.

Such collaboration has been made possible by the relaxation of competition laws. The Competition and Markets Authority has said it will be more flexible about collaboration between industry rivals during the pandemic.

Sky’s report said that Capita was looking into more than 100 situations to support the government response with additional services. This would include putting in more resource to healthcare call centres as well as being part of an initiative to set up health testing centres. Some private sector clients have also asked for extra help to respond to higher demand from their customers, Capita said.

Personnel Today has learned that outsourcing firms have been working together in this manner for the past fortnight to meet the demands of extra cleaning, food preparation and equipment relocation at hospitals, for example. It is thought that companies involved in catering have passed over databases of people they may have been looking to recruit to outsourcing firms. Also, people who have been furloughed have been subcontracted or temporarily transferred to other firms.

The source told Personnel Today that every effort was made to use people locally, to ensure no unnecessary journeys were made.

Meanwhile, Capita has set out a number of measures to protect its financial position, including cost-cutting to offset the impact of expected revenue reduction. As part of this, senior management and the board will take “significant temporary” reductions in their salaries.

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