Royal Mail has been told it cannot continue to blame Covid for late deliveries – after it missed key targets last year because of the pandemic.
Regulator Ofcom ended a probe into Royal Mail’s performance between April 2021 and March 2022 by saying it failed to hit some of its annual delivery targets.
Just 82% of first class mail was delivered within one working day, below a target of 93%, while 95.6% of second class post was delivered within three working days, against a target of 98.5%.
Ofcom said 94.29% of delivery routes were completed each day a delivery was required – against the target of 99.9%.
The regulator said it accepts that, for much of 2021/22, Covid continued to have a “significant, pervasive and unprecedented” impact on Royal Mail’s operations, with more staff off and more parcels being posted.
It said Royal Mail may have met its targets if not for Covid so decided against finding it in breach of its regulatory obligations for 2021/22.
“But we do not expect Covid-19 to have a continuing, significant impact on the company’s service levels,” it warned.
“Social distancing measures are no longer in place, absence levels are likely to be much less unpredictable and parcel volumes have largely returned to pre-pandemic trends.
“We are concerned by the fact that Royal Mail’s performance in the early part of 2022/23 fell well short of where it should be.
“We believe the company has had plenty of time to learn lessons from the pandemic and we are unlikely to consider the factors outlined above as exceptional and beyond its control in future.”
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s group director for networks and communications, said: “Looking back at last year, Covid-19 was clearly still having a significant impact on Royal Mail’s operations. However, the company’s had plenty of time to learn lessons from the pandemic, and cannot continue to use it as an excuse.
“We’re concerned by Royal Mail’s performance so far this year, which is falling well short of where it should be. It must do everything it can to bring service levels back up and we’ll be keeping a close eye on it throughout the year.”
Since the pandemic, Royal Mail has been embroiled in a row with the Communication Workers Union over pay, jobs and conditions which has led to a series of strikes, with more walkouts planned in the busy run up to Christmas.
“We were disappointed by our 2021/22 quality of service performance and we apologise to all customers who were impacted by service levels during this time,” a Royal Mail spokesman said.
“We are pleased that Ofcom also took into account the significant, pervasive and unprecedented impact of the pandemic on our operation as we worked hard to keep the country connected while addressing the ongoing impacts of Covid-19, including managing high levels of sickness absences.
“During this emergency period, we played a key role in the country’s fight against the pandemic by delivering millions of Covid-19 test kits via 35,000 priority postboxes.
“Our focus remains to restore our service to the high standards our customers expect to receive.”