Royal Mail is to hire a record 33,000 temporary workers for the Christmas period – two-thirds more than usual – to handle the UK festive parcel frenzy triggered by the surge in online shopping.
Christmas is always the busiest time for the postal service, but this year it is seeking record numbers of temporary recruits to help to sort an even higher flow of packages as high-street closures during the pandemic have forced shoppers online.
The UK has about 90,000 postal workers and Royal Mail typically hires 20,000 seasonal workers. This year, the extra staff will work mainly in sorting offices, delivery vans and data centres.
Sally Ashford, the Royal Mail’s chief human resources officer, said: “During these unprecedented times we believe it is critical that Royal Mail continues to deliver. We want to do our best to deliver Christmas for our customers and support the effort on the pandemic. This helps the whole country to celebrate and stay safe during these difficult times.”
The company aims to fill more than 13,000 vacancies in mail sorting offices in England, 1,400 in Scotland, 700 in Wales and 500 in Northern Ireland. About 1,000 additional workers are also sought for Royal Mail’s dedicated Covid-19 testing kit collection team, while other sorting and driving roles are on offer in logistics and at its Heathrow international hub. There are also temporary positions in data inputting.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online shopping, with restrictions closing non-essential high street shops for months during 2020 and further closures not being ruled out. Royal Mail staff have worked throughout the pandemic, despite significant safety concerns from unions.
Last week, Royal Mail announced that its postal workers would for the first time collect parcels on the doorstep, in one of the biggest changes to the service as it adapts to the decline in letters and rapid growth in online shopping.
Royal Mail reported a £139m increase in total revenue in the five months to 30 August, as the pandemic caused a surge in parcel deliveries. While letter deliveries collapsed, parcel volumes during that period rose by a third year-on-year – an increase of 177m parcels. It normally carries 1.3bn parcels a year. Rivals such as Amazon and other parcel companies have, however, helped to erode its market share.