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Published on Monday, August 10, 2020

Hays defends claims its staff aren't skilled enough to work as Covid test-and-tracers






Hays Travel has batted off criticism that its staff don't have the right skills or knowledge to work as Covid-19 tracers, after it emerged the company agreed a subcontract with two providers.


A spokeswoman for the agency confirmed the company pitched for the work in March, when an employee suggested it would be a good way to boost business after travel sales dropped.


However, the appointment has been called 'ludicrous' by one health expert, who said travel agents do not have enough expertise.


Serco, the logistics company believed to have the largest private contract with the government for Covid-19 contact tracing, confirmed to the Observer newspaper that it has subcontracted Hays Travel to do some of the work.


Other companies from the travel sector have also been subcontracted, it said.


A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed to the Observer: "Hays Travel has been subcontracted by Serco to provide support for NHS Test and Trace.


"Hays Travel was also subcontracted by Teleperformance [a French call centre customer experience corporation] to provide limited support for FCO travel advice at the height of the pandemic and also some support for the 119 [testing contact centre] service."


In an internal memo, Hays told staff: "This is to help to call people who may have been in contact with someone who has the coronavirus. We need to recruit a significant number of people really quickly."


The company told staff it would like to employ 'people who are recommended by you, friends, family or previous colleagues - people who you think would do the job really well and look after the Hays Travel brand for us all'.


Neither Serco nor Hays Travel have given details of the size or value of the subcontract for the contact-tracing operation.


The outsourcing of tracing has been criticised by David McCoy, professor of global public health at Queen Mary University of London, who told the Observer it was 'ludicrous' to have a travel agency tracing contacts of Covid-19 sufferers.


He said the minimal training provided was 'hopelessly inadequate'.


"Talking to people who may be carrying Covid-19 and encouraging them to self-isolate is skilled work and should ideally be done by people with knowledge and experience of public health, and legitimacy to be listened to," he said.


"It makes no sense to have the work done by a travel agency in a call centre disconnected from the public health system. The private outsourcing is taking resources away from strengthening the public health front line, where capacity needs to be developed."


The Hays Travel spokeswoman responded: "Training was provided as required by the client [Serco] by our highly skilled training academy."


She said Hays is 'highly skilled in dealing with people with complex requirements', adding: "Our call handlers meet the high standards required by our client at the level at which they operate."


The spokeswoman said the idea came from an employee, after travel bookings plummeted in March, when coronavirus forced the UK to shutdown and travel bookings dried up.


She said: "Back in March, in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, we could see our industry facing crisis and we decided to be very proactive in trying to secure work for our people - many of them did not qualify for the furlough scheme.


"They are quality people and we wanted to find work for them to do."

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  • Covid tracers (not testers)

    Agree. Perfect for call center tracers

    By Geoff Ceasar, Saturday, August 15, 2020

  • Well done Hays!

    I would have thought experienced people dealing with holiday customers on a regular basis would be ideally placed for the job.

    By Peter M42, Monday, August 10, 2020

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