Travel firm Hays Travel has been awarded a contract by logistics giant Serco to work on the NHS Test and Trace programme, it has been reported.

The Sunderland c ompany, the UK’s largest independent travel agent, has also been offering advice on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, following a second deal win with French contact centre firm Teleperformance, on behalf of the Government’s 119 testing centre service.

The Sunderland firm, which is owned by John and Irene Hays who started the business 41 years ago, is said to have pitched for the scheme on the coronavirus response back in March, just as the travel industry was thrown into chaos and the Covid-19 virus was spreading across the globe.

Hays Travel is not directly contracted to the government, but has been subcontracted by the two providers. The size and value of the deal is not known.

Serco is believed to have the largest private contract with the government for Covid-19 contact tracing.

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

“Hays Travel was also subcontracted by Teleperformance to provide limited support for FCO travel advice at the height of the pandemic and also some support for the 119 service.”

“As the public would expect, we are doing everything we can to respond to this unprecedented global pandemic – this includes working with public and private sector partners where necessary. All contact tracers and call handlers receive appropriate training and follow detailed procedures and scripts.”

The contracts come a week after the travel firm announced plans to cut more than 850 jobs after its recovery from the coronavirus lockdown was scuppered by new travel restrictions for tourists going to Spain.

The company said it had been on track for recovery – but the introduction of restrictions for people going to or travelling back from Spain had triggered the cancellations of hundreds of thousands of holidays.

The 878 jobs at risk – out of Hays’ total workforce of 4,500 – are made up of 344 employees who are training as travel consultants and 534 who work in its foreign exchange division.

Company founders Mr and Mrs Hays said they were “devastated” by the job losses, which are the first redundancies in the firm’s 40-year history.

Hays took over the retail estate of failed rival Thomas Cook last October, bringing on board 2,500 new members of staff while also taking on around 550 new shops.

Mr Hays criticised the Spanish quarantine measures for being too blunt.

His firm had recovered to around half of last year’s levels before the quarantine announcement saw demand drop again.



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