The first Royal Mail strike in 13 years will bring the postal service to a standstill in two weeks time, jeopardising medical deliveries and isolating the elderly.
Roughly 115,000 Royal Mail workers will launch four days of industrial action on August 26 and 31, and September 8 and 9 – the first walk out of its kind since 2009.
It comes after the Communication Workers’ Union and Royal Mail failed to reach an agreement over pay and conditions in the face of soaring inflation. But the strike will leave millions of households without important letters, parcels and prescriptions.
Which post will be delayed?
Royal Mail said it had “contingency plans in place” to minimise the upcoming disruption, but has admitted that delays are highly likely.
Covid testing kits, medical prescriptions, special deliveries and tracked parcels will be “prioritised”, but there are no guarantees they will arrive on time.
Letters and normal parcels are at even greater risk of being delayed, or even lost, at unmanned sorting offices. Royal Mail usually aims to deliver first class post the next working day and second class post within two to three working days.
Jessica Willock, of comparison site Confused.com, said: "It is likely that parcels will end up being delayed or even going missing during the strike period.
"If you are waiting on a delivery from a retailer, reach out to them directly rather than Royal Mail – it is the retailer who is responsible for getting your parcel to you."
Are you entitled to a refund for lost post?
If a first or second class letter or parcel has not been delivered within 10 days of its due date, you might be entitled to compensation. For tracked deliveries, a claim can be made seven days after the due date.
Either the sender or the recipient can make a claim, but only one party will receive compensation. To do so you will need proof of posting, such as the receipt or certificate given in the Post Office – a letter posted in a post box is unlikely to have proof of postage and therefore a claim cannot be made.
Eligible claimants for items lost in first or second class post are entitled to the value of the item up to £20, rising to £50 for first or second class signed-for post.
For items sent by tracked delivery the maximum compensation is £100 and there is a maximum of £500 for special delivery.
Are there alternatives?
To avoid delayed or lost documents or items in the coming months, it will be best to avoid sending post using Royal Mail around the dates of the walk out. But if important letters and parcels cannot wait, there are alternatives, but they will be more expensive.
Many courier companies now offer a “postable” service for letters and small parcels which can fit through a letterbox. Evri, formerly Hermes, offers next day delivery on items weighing less than 1kg for £3.29 and standard delivery for £2.69.
In London, same-day courier service City Sprint will deliver an A4 document via bike from £6.50.