Bank rules force staff to turn off NHS COVID-19 tracing app at work

By Iain Withers and Sinead Cruise

LONDON (Reuters) – Branch staff at some of Britain’s biggest banks say rules that require them to store phones in lockers while at work are putting them at undue risk of COVID-19 from colleagues and customers, as they cannot use the country’s tracing app.

Lloyds Banking Group <LLOY.L>, along with rival TSB, are among those advising employees to deactivate the NHS Track & Trace app during office hours, when they are not allowed to keep phones on their person.

Some banks ask staff and cashiers to store phones away to prevent leaks of sensitive customer data, although this is not formally required by regulator the Financial Conduct Authority.

Under current government guidelines, users of the NHS app are advised to disable bluetooth or pause the app when away from their phones to avoid false notifications.

Other companies have told staff to pause the app at work, including pharmaceuticals firm GSK <GSK.L>, which said its other safety measures were sufficient, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The BTU union, which represents staff working for Lloyds but is not recognised by the bank, said it had been contacted by dozens of staff unable to use the app, which has been downloaded by more than 14 million people.

One unnamed Lloyds employee who contacted the BTU said: “I live and work in a high-risk area so I am very concerned at being told that while I’m at work I have to suspend the NHS test and trace app… This defeats the object of track and trace.” 

Another said they were at risk as they had to conduct face-to-face meetings and due to the “blatant transgression of the social distancing rules by many customers”.

“Customers and staff have a right to know if they have come into contact with someone