Thursday, 11 June 2020

CORONA VIRUS ADVICE 1



CORONA VIRUS ADVICE

30 Mar 2020 | Official Duty Agreed for Health and Safety reps dealing with Coronavirus – Extended for another two weeks to 13 April 2020 
The spread of the coronavirus is requiring a significant increase in the time that PCS health and safety reps are having to spend dealing with the impact of the virus in their workplaces.These include discussions with local management, ensuring workplaces are cleaned and have the required cleaning products, dealing with distressed members, ensuring dealings with the public are safe, advising members on DWP HR policies, etc.

This is clearly an unprecedented, very fast moving and extremely serious situation. PCS therefore requested today that time spent on dealing with the coronavirus for PCS health and safety reps should be treated as official duty.

PCS welcomes the quick response from DWP to agree to this request, initially for a two week period starting on Monday 16th March 2020. This means that, for the next two weeks at least, all health and safety reps’ time spent on dealing with the coronavirus will be treated as official duty.
DWP has asked that reps keep a record of the overall amount of time spent on official duty dealing with the coronavirus. Health and Safety reps are therefore asked to collate this over the two week period and send it to Charles Law via leeds@pcs.org.uk at the end of the period.


27 Mar 2020 |
Coronavirus: PCS agrees significant HR policy changes with Cabinet Office

Following our latest discussions with the Cabinet Office we have made significant changes to HR policy on sickness absence, staying at home and social distancing and self-certification.
The latest HR guidance, agreed yesterday (26) makes clear that sick absence due to coronavirus must be automatically disregarded for trigger points/consideration points. Managers must also accept extended self-certificates for the entire period of the absence when the employee is better and back at work.

We are also arguing that staff should stay at home and be able to observe social distance. They should only attend work if their work cannot be done from home, and that it is essential, for example it is for an emergency, or of a  “Vital to life” nature.
We will continue to call on the Cabinet Office to ensure the safety and security of all of our members.
Read the latest guidance in full.


26 March 2020 | DWP/MB/037/20 To: All Members and GEC
Members living with vulnerable people – Do I have to go to work?
PCS has received a large number of queries from members who are worried about having to go to work when they are living with a relative who is classed as vulnerable.
What do we mean by vulnerable?
Current NHS guidance defines vulnerable as follows:
● aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
● under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
● chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
● chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
● chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
● chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
● problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
● a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
● being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
● those who are pregnant

DWP has told all staff who fall into this category that they should not attend work at a DWP office, though they can, if possible, work from home. They should follow NHS guidance to be particularly stringent in following the NHS social distancing guidance.

Members have rightly voiced concerns that if they come to work they may contract the virus and then pass it on to their vulnerable relative when they return home after work. Members are therefore asking why they too cannot attend work to protect their vulnerable relative.

PCS has asked DWP to allow members living with a vulnerable relative to be allowed to also not attend work in order to protect their relative. DWP have replied as follows:

DWP will follow NHS advice. Currently this is that vulnerable people should be ‘shielded’ for 12 weeks by not leaving their home and minimizing personal contacts to an absolute minimum.

But the NHS is stating that people who live with ‘shielded’ people are not required to follow the same advice but instead should follow the personal hygiene and social distancing advice as they go about their business. Please see here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Please especially note this paragraph and the subsequent list of social distancing actions: Whilst the rest of your household are not required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves, we would expect them to do what they can to support you in shielding and to stringently follow guidance on social distancing.

We are allowing as many people as possible to work from home and are working to expand our capacity to do that but we also need people to deliver our services. Therefore, we won’t be going beyond extant NHS advice but will ensure we follow it to the letter.

PCS response
PCS is very disappointed at this response and we know that many members will be also. We will continue to press the department to adopt as flexible approach as possible to members who are living with a vulnerable person, to reflect both the extreme levels of anguish and distress that they are suffering from having to go to work in these circumstances and the danger posed to the vulnerable person.

PCS are clear that line managers should be as supportive of employees who care for vulnerable and disabled people as possible. Members in this situation should not be subjected to undue pressure to attend work and should report any examples of undue pressure being applied to their local union representative.

Cabinet Office guidance soon to be published, also highlights that "employees who are not themselves defined as vulnerable, but who live with and/or care for a vulnerable person are advised to stay at home as much as possible to limit the risk of infecting the vulnerable person they live with."

Any decisions taken within DWP regarding requests for staff to remain at home with a vulnerable person, should be taken within the spirit of the above advice, and CSHR Casework advice should be sought wherever necessary.
PCS will continue to maximise the pressure on DWP to ensure all workplaces are safe, properly cleaned, have the required sanitizing equipment and strictly follow NHS advice on social distancing.



DWP has said that it will follow NHS advice to the letter. We must ensure that they do.
Charles Law Industrial Officer | Martin Cavanagh DWP Group President


26 March 2020 | Coronavirus: Annual Leave
DWP/MB/035/20 | To: All Members and GEC 

PCS have been in regular dialogue with DWP over a series of measures which fall out from the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.
The employer has issued new HR advice for dealing with annual leave requests throughout this emergency. PCS urge all of our members, including those with line manager responsibility for staff to make themselves aware of this latest guidance.

Annual leave - important to have a break
The purpose of annual leave is to ensure you have sufficient rest, leisure and social activity, away from work and home. Members will be struggling with a whole variety of circumstances during this national emergency, and your wellbeing and safeguarding of your mental health has never been more important. Under any circumstance staff who do not take annual leave are at greater risk of burnout and mental health related sick absence, that is particularly the case now. It is clear the purpose of annual leave is not to self-isolate in order to comply with government advice to minimize the spread of coronavirus (covid-19) and staff should not be coerced in to taking annual leave to meet government guidelines.

Key Principles
The latest DWP guidance sets out the following key principles for members:
● Employees working in the office or from home should be encouraged to take leave, in line with normal policy guidelines, to switch away from work and enjoy time at home with family, on hobbies, etc.
● Annual Leave decisions will continue to be considered in line with existing policy
● Line Managers should plan for annual leave to be used in the normal way during the Coronavirus period.
● Annual Leave should not be used where employees are ill with coronavirus symptoms and self-isolating for 7 days.
● Annual leave should not be used where employees are housemates of someone ill with relevant symptoms and required to self-isolate for 14 days.
● Annual leave should not be used where employees have been granted paid special leave, e.g. due to a breakdown in caring arrangements.
● Special leave with pay differs from annual leave. Employees on Special Leave with Pay must ensure they are contactable during normal working hours and follow normal attendance management/sick procedures if unfit to work. They must seek line manager permission before taking annual leave. 

Relaxation of annual leave policy
Following discussion the DWP has agreed to a number of easements to the normal annual leave policy.

These include:
● Nobody will lose leave they cannot take. Annual leave will continue to accrue while employees are unable to take.

● The carry over limit of 10 days will not apply to the employee’s current leave year, where leave cannot be used due to coronavirus sickness absence or special leave, or because the business requires the employee to work. 

● Members will be expected to reduce the excess carry over to within the normal 10 days limit by the end of their next leave year in 12 months time.

● Members must be given the opportunity to use by the end of their next leave year, the annual leave they were prevented from taking during this epidemic. This is a legal requirement in respect of the minimum statutory leave.

● If you clearly state that you do not want to take the opportunity to carry over the excess and use it over an extended period, you can request payment instead. Payment can only be requested at the end of the leave year. 

● Easter holidays – if you are working in the office or at home you should speak to your manager about continuing to take any leave you have booked over Easter. If you are either needed to work by DWP or you wish to cancel the leave due to travel and social contact restrictions, your leave shall be credited back to your leave chart. 

Employees prevented from taking leave due to sickness absence or paid special leave will in any case continue to accrue the leave.

● Public & privilege leave – if you are working in the office or homeworking you will still take time off for bank holidays and (at an appropriate time) the Queen’s birthday.
If you are absent on paid special leave, including those in vulnerable groups who are self-isolating, you will not be entitled to these days and, therefore, will not be compensated either by carrying the days forward or receiving cash.

As ever PCS will continue to keep members informed as quickly as possible in this ever changing environment in which we are operating. If your experience differs from the position outlined in this briefing please raise your specific concerns or issues with your local PCS rep. If you have any queries or concerns regarding the advice in this briefing please contact group office via leeds@pcs.org.uk.
Martin Cavanagh, Group President | Angela Grant, Group Assistant Secretary

24 March 2020 | DWP suspend all Jobcentre Plus mandatory face-to-face signing

DEPARTMENT FOR WORK & PENSIONS GROUP
 To: All Members and GEC | DWP/MB/034/20
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Update for Jobcentre Members
DWP suspend all Jobcentre Plus mandatory face-to-face signing
The outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has left our Front of House members rightly concerned as an increase in footfall in Jobcentres has occurred. PCS have been pressing DWP for some weeks to close Jobcentres and a relaxation of the usual benefit process. In fact, PCS wrote to DWP on 3 March 2020 requesting that the conditionality and sanctions process be suspended, with priority given to getting benefits paid. PCS welcome the decision by DWP to suspend all Jobcentre Plus mandatory face-to-face signing from 19 March 2020. The department state that this measure will reassure claimants that they will continue to be paid as normal, while they deal with the current Coronavirus outbreak.

This decision means that:
• All new claim interventions will be done by telephone (Initial Evidence Interview, Claimant Commitment, verifying evidence, Habitual Residence Test).
• All face-to-face conditionality meetings for UC customers will be replaced with telephone interviews. This will maintain the regular contact between claimants and their Work Coach so that momentum is not lost for those needing support. Changes to claimant commitments can be agreed over the phone and accepted by the claimant on their on-line account.
• If Work Coaches need to contact claimants, they should do so via the online journal or by phone.
• If claimants need to contact DWP, they should do so by telephone or online, but the Jobcentre network will remain open for claimants who are not ill or self-isolating.
• This is in addition to the suspension of JSA and New Style JSA signings that was announced previously.

Further measures to minimise footfall in Jobcentres

In addition to the above, DWP announced on 24 March 2020 further measures to minimise footfall in Jobcentres.
This means that from 24 March 2020:
· Jobcentres will be closed to all but the vulnerable cases and other related transactions, which cannot be completed through any other channel in order to receive timely payment.
· Inside Jobcentres, strict social distancing measures will be in place.
· Signs will be placed in windows asking everyone to claim online and / or over the phone.
· A number will be provided for those who want to speak to a colleague in the Jobcentre.
· Local leaders will also signpost customers to local support services, such as the local authority.
DWP state that how this is implemented locally will be dependent on individual office circumstances and local managers are encouraged to begin preparation now.

Jobcentres remain open
Jobcentre members are rightly concerned about the current situation as they are at the front line. PCS made clear those concerns at recent meetings with the employer and we welcome the measures brought in by DWP to minimise footfall in Jobcentres. DWP state that they have to keep Jobcentres open in order that vulnerable claimants can access the benefits system at this time. There are many claimants that have no access to a telephone or computer and we recognise this. Suspending all Jobcentre Plus mandatory interviews has resulted in an increase in footfall in some Jobcentres as claimants of all benefits are seeking assistance as they feel that they have nowhere else to go. PCS welcome moves to prioritise payments of benefits to vulnerable claimants, but in doing so recognise that this has left staff confused and concerned. The Group Executive Committee (GEC) have been contacted by a number of members raising those concerns.

These concerns include:
. No posters regarding social distancing in Jobcentres.
. Claimants using computers and they are not being cleaned or wiped.
. No wipes or hand sanitisers available to staff and claimants.
. Air conditioning still on despite requests for it to be switched off.
. Staffing levels low as a result of staff being sent home or have not come in to work.
PCS are having regular meetings with senior DWP management and those issues listed will be raised. Any PCS member working in a Jobcentre and who has further concerns then please email group office via leeds@pcs.org.uk

Workers with an Underlying Health Condition
A number of Jobcentre members have also contacted the GEC stating that despite having an underlying health condition which requires an annual flu injection from their GP, they are being asked to come into the office. DWP/MB/032/20 covered this subject in great detail. However, as a reminder the DWP and government advice states:
We are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.
This group includes those who are:
● aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
● under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
● chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
● chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
● chronic kidney disease
● chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
● chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS),
● a learning disability or cerebral palsy
● diabetes
● problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
● a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
● being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
● those who are pregnant

PCS advice and support
If any member has any concerns or is felt pressured into ignoring the latest position you should contact your local PCS representative for support in the first instance or alternatively raise the matter with group office via leeds@pcs.org.uk
PCS will continue to update our Jobcentre members when we can as we fully appreciate that many are worried and concerned at this time.
Ian Pope, Martin Cavanagh, Annette Rochester


23 March 2020 | Coronavirus: Vulnerable Workers
DWP/MB/032/20. To: All Members and GEC
On Sunday 22nd March the government issued further advice to workers and other members of society who were classed as vulnerable to Coronavirus due to their age (over 70), pregnancy or having serious underlying health conditions. 

This advice confirmed that those who were classed as vulnerable will be contacted directly by the NHS in the near future advising them of specific measures to take.
Since this announcement PCS have received a number of enquiries as to whether this guidance replaces that issued earlier last week. 

PCS have confirmed that this new advice DOES NOT REPLACE the previous guidance for vulnerable workers. The new guidance supports and enhances the previous advice, and the previous list of conditions outlined in DWP/MB/025/20 is still relevant.
As a reminder the DWP and government advice states:
We are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.
This group includes those who are:
  1. aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  2. under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
  3. chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  4. chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  5. chronic kidney disease
  6. chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  7. chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS),
  8. a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  9. diabetes
  10. problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  11. a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  12. being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  13. those who are pregnant.
Vulnerable colleagues
PCS has already raised a number of examples were managers had sought to reinterpret the list or "diagnose" the conditions of individual members of their staff, as well as highlighting reports of individuals refusing to follow the advice given and demanding to stay in work.
DWP have taken these examples seriously and have now issued much firmer HR advice to ALL staff.
PCS advise our members that DWP policy for the handling of Coronavirus now makes clear that staff who fall within the above NHS definition of vulnerable, e.g. due to their age, pregnancy or certain underlying health conditions, MUST (a) inform their manager and (b) not attend the office.

The policy further advises these staff "do not have to disclose the nature of their illness to their manager, if they do not wish to, but they are expected to reveal the fact they are in the vulnerable category." 

With immediate effect any DWP member of staff who fits in to the above category of workers are not allowed to attend their office under any circumstances and managers do not have discretion to grant exceptions.
 
If vulnerable colleagues were previously granted exceptional permission to attend the office, or they were requested to attend by their manager, they must go home immediately and not return until further notice

Guidance for working from home should still be followed, if you are able to, but you should be granted paid special leave until further notice if homeworking is not possible.
Line managers are expected to advise vulnerable colleagues to follow the NHS guidance on Staying at Home (vulnerable person section) and on Social Distancing.

PCS advice and support
PCS welcomes the clarity offered in this latest advice and guidance, and will continue to raise examples that undermine this revised policy.

If any member has any concerns or is felt pressured in to ignoring this latest position you should contact your local PCS representative for support in the first instance or alternatively raise the matter with group office via leeds@pcs.org.uk

PCS will continue to update our advice and guidance to members as quickly as possible in light of developments.

Martin Cavanagh, PCS DWP Group President | Carol Revell, Group Health & Safety officer | Angela Grant, Group Assistant Secretary



21st March 2020 | Coronavirus: Special Leave for Dependant Care
DWP briefing, Department for Work & Pensions Group. To: All Members and GEC. DWP/MB/031/20 

Key worker status
DWP Coronavirus HR Policy guidance was updated on 20/03/20 following the government's decision to give DWP employees Key worker status. This means based on government guidelines, that schools should still be open to the children of DWP’s employees, although it will be for individual local authorities and/or schools to decide whether they provide this service and the extent to which they might provide it, based on staffing levels, etc. PCS understands there is great uncertainty as to what educational services will be available and that members are experiencing difficulties with the application of ‘Key Worker’ status, as well as having serious concerns as to what this means for them in practice and for the safety and wellbeing of their children.
This Briefing confirms that DWP Coronavirus HR Policy guidance includes advice for Dependent Care to address the above concerns. This guidance confirms that: Paid special leave is available where no other options are available or immediately available - this should be awarded for as long as staff need the provision.

Dependent care – DWP Guidance
Employees and managers should work together in these difficult circumstances to enable the employee to meet their caring responsibilities for their dependants while DWP delivers vital services to some of the most vulnerable in society. The employee can help by sharing their caring with family or trusted friends who can help, but only if it is safe to do so for the child and others, and is within the government's social distancing guidelines. While it is expected employees will make every effort to make alternative arrangements when normal care breaks down, many members have reported that their traditional fallback for additional childcare is the maternal and/or paternal grandparents.
Members are reminded that any family member who is over 70 or has an underlying health condition that makes them vulnerable, should be in isolation and should not be placed at risk by taking on extra childcare responsibility. The same consideration should be given to family members that are pregnant, who are also considered at risk during this period.
PCS have also received many enquiries from members who have children with specific needs who are potentially vulnerable due to the closure of educational and other care facilities. Government guidelines placed on the gov.uk website in relation to dependants of critical/key workers, states "every child who can be safely cared for at home should be". PCS expect managers to take the welfare of the member of staff and their dependant into account in line with this guidance.
DWP should explore the practicability of workplace flexibilities, including flexible working if employees need to start work later or leave at lunchtime to fulfil a caring need, or homeworking wherever that is possible.

Paid special leave is available where no other options are available or immediately available to staff and should be awarded. 

In certain circumstances, DWP can reimburse the necessary cost of additional care for children or dependent adults when coronavirus causes normal arrangements to break down. 

Full details are provided in Coronavirus HR Policy guidance on the DWP Intranet:
https://intranet.dwp.gov.uk/…/news-and…/dwp-news/coronavirus
 
PCS advice for members
PCS fully understands the concerns this crisis is causing our members and will continue to support and represent you through these difficult times. If you have no alternative but to take time off due to the school closures, or if your dependants would be vulnerable or at risk by you remaining at work, you should speak with your line manager who will be expected to make decisions in a flexible and compassionate manner.
The priority for all of society is to limit the spread of this virus as much as possible, and managers should not be trying to enforce decisions or mandate staff to do anything that undermines this strict government guideline. While we also still need to provide vital services to those in society who need our support, by working with each other we will stand a better chance of achieving the department's requirements while safeguarding our members and their families.
You should contact your local PCS representative for advice, support and representation should you have a problem resolving a work related issue in your personal case. PCS may be contacted by email when there is an urgent need to do so via: leeds@pcs.org.uk


20 Mar 2020 | DWP staff are ALL Key Workers
As part of the on-going reaction to the coronavirus, we now have confirmation that all DWP colleagues are classed as critical workers. This is further recognition of the vital job that all of us do every day, alongside nurses, doctors, firefighters and the police, to provide society’s safety net.
We will continue to discuss the implications of this with both DWP and the Cabinet Office, and we will be meeting with the employer today, and on an on-going basis during this crisis. We will keep members updated as regularly as possible and hope to issue detailed guidance later today.PCS will be using this confirmation, that our members are so key to delivering the everyday support that is needed by the most vulnerable in society, in our continuing campaign for better pay, pensions and staffing.The Government has formally recognised how important DWP workers are by declaring them as "critical workers". They now need to show that recognition in the pay packets of our members, by not attacking the Civil Service Compensation Scheme, by reducing pension contributions to what they should be and by providing us with the staff we need to carry out the vital role we play. 


20 Mar 2020 | Flexibility for formal meetings and trade union representation
Common line manager scenarios updated.

DWP has updated Coronavirus HR policy guidance, following consultation with PCS, for Common line manager scenarios to confirm that managers:
  • Should be flexible and practicable in applying deadlines in any procedures, not just Grievance
  • Discretion should be applied, based on the circumstances, to allow reasonable additional time for things to get done in the current situation
Appropriate formal action will continue under Attendance Management, Discipline, Poor Performance, Grievance and Appeal Procedures but this may require the application of flexibility in the current situation.
A Q&A under Coronavirus HR policy guidance for Common line manager scenarios now states:“My employee cannot arrange a TU rep to attend a grievance meeting on the appointed day or within 5 days of the appointed day. What should I do?  
You should be flexible and practicable in applying deadlines in any procedures, not just Grievance. Your discretion should be applied, based on the circumstances, to allow reasonable additional time for things to get done in the current situation. This might apply to deadlines for submitting grievances, notice of meetings and time allowed for trade union reps. or note-takers to be obtained. To the greatest extend possible, travel between sites for meetings should be avoided, with participants expected to agree telephone, VC or Skype meetings.”
PCS advice for members
Contact your line manager, or appropriate decision maker, when you are unable to arrange a PCS Rep to accompany you at a formal meeting. Try to contact an alternative local PCS Rep. Local managers should apply flexibility. You have the right to re-arrange a meeting up to 5 working days after the date of a notified formal meeting. But in the current situation managers can apply flexibility to agree an alternative later date for the meeting. Refusal to adopt the flexibilities expected in the current situation should be reported to PCS at: leeds@pcs.org.uk


19 Mar 2020 | Coronavirus: Flexi Credit and Special Leave
HR Coronavirus Policy Guidance updated
DWP Coronavirus HR Policy guidance was updated at 09:27 on 19 March 2020 for flexi credit and special leave, providing improved guidance following consultation with PCS.
Flexi credit and special leave – DWP guidance
Where the employee is not sick but is unable to attend work due to coronavirus, managers should try to be flexible and allow home working. Otherwise they should consider the use of either flexi credits under the Flexi Policy (for hours or odd days) or paid special leave (for weeks and multiple days). Each case should be treated sensitively and on its merits. The rationale for using flexi credits for shorter absences is it is impracticable to record hours and odd days as special leave on SOP.
Flexi credit (for hours or odd days) or paid special leave (for weeks or multiple days) might be needed for
  • Self-isolation – this is most likely to be because the employee lives in a household where someone else has the symptoms and everyone in that household must self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptoms emerged. There is guidance available where everyone in the household should self-isolate (link is external). Some other employees might individually be asked to self-isolate by NHS111 or their GP, for example because they have serious health conditions. Employees should discuss any such advice with the employee and act appropriately.
Point to note: employees aged over 70 years, pregnant mothers and some colleagues who are potentially vulnerable because they have certain health conditions should not attend work. If they can work from home, that should be prioritised and arranged, otherwise paid special leave must be considered under the ‘isolation’ category.
  • Caring responsibilities – following the government’s announcement on 18 March, schools are closed until further notice except for the children of workers who are essential to combatting the spread of coronavirus and children with certain vulnerable children. Other caring responsibilities for children under school years or adult dependents might also break down. In any of the above scenarios the employee must (a) where possible share caring responsibilities with their partner, if that is possible and (b) make strenuous efforts to establish alternative caring arrangements, where they can, as soon as possible. They should discuss this with their line manager. Home working should be considered. Where an employee has tried but not been able to make alternative arrangements, or those arrangements cannot commence for a few days, and home working is not possible, paid special leave may be awarded for the employee’s share of the caring.
  • Other reasons – such as an office temporarily closing or a breakdown in public travel
    In all cases managers should keep in touch with their employees and employees should take all practicable steps to resume duty as soon as possible – taking account of advice and guidance from CSHR Casework (via Employee Services)
PCS advice for members
PCS is engaged in daily contact with DWP to improve current guidance for members.
DWP Coronavirus HR policy guidance will be updated as soon as possible following the latest government decisions and NHS advice for coronavirus. DWP guidance is published on the DWP Intranet. p to date NHS advice is available from NHS111 on line.
Contact your local PCS representative for advice, support and representation should you have a problem resolving a work related issue in your personal case.
PCS may be contacted by email when there is an urgent need to do so via: leeds@pcs.org.uk




17 Mar 2020 | Coronavirus – Statement From Group President Many of you have understandably become increasingly concerned with the effects of Coronavirus and the impact it is having on your lives both inside and outside of work.
I wanted to write to you outlining the steps we are taking within PCS DWP group to manage and protect the safety and welfare of you, our members, and those members of the public we provide vital services to.
This national emergency is unprecedented, and has resulted in a societal anxiety rarely seen before.
PCS have been pursuing the robust, detailed guidance you require in these difficult times both nationally and within our department in DWP; at the same time Group officers and our office in Leeds have been fielding a number of questions from both members and PCS representatives, as well as listening to your concerns.
I want to reassure you that your union will continue to do everything we can to ensure you and your loved ones remain safe, while also seeking guarantees that help protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Advice for members
PCS will continue to press the employer to prioritise the health and wellbeing of staff, their families and the public during the Covid19 pandemic.
PCS has already issued guidance to members in a number of circulars in recent weeks and further briefings will be issued as the situation progresses.
With this in mind PCS have proposed the following measures in consultation with the employer:
  • staff displaying symptoms of the virus should be sent home, with no impact on either their sick pay or the risk of attendance management action
  • staff in contact with others either exposed to the virus or showing symptoms, should be allowed special leave with pay (SPLWP) until the appropriate isolation period has been served
  • staff with underlying health conditions and/or disabilities be allowed to work from home, where possible, or be given SPLWP until the advice allows for a safe return
  • this provision be extended to staff and customers who are pregnant or over 70
  • all non-urgent face to face appointments with the public be cancelled until further notice
  • all customers be excused attendance at DWP sites and the normal benefit and NINO allocation processes be suspended until it is safe to resume appointments
  • all benefit payments be processed without signing or the need for face to face contact
  • the claimant commitment be suspended during this emergency
  • no sanctions to be issued as a result of claimants being impacted by this emergency
  • offices be closed and staff sent home to self-isolate for the recommended period in all instances where exposure, or potential exposure, to the virus can be identified
  • all necessary measures be put in place, to protect staff and customers, including the deep cleaning of offices and the provision of cleaning and sanitation materials in the workplace.
Union action
PCS is also very conscious of our own responsibility to both our representatives and members. It is for this reason that the union nationally has issued a temporary suspension of face to face meetings of reps and members, as well as unnecessary travel.
This decision will be reviewed later this week at a specially convened NEC dial-in and we will issue further advice as and when available regarding our internal activities.

Emergency measures
I am sure members will appreciate that these are extraordinary times and the absolute priority for our union has to be your safety and wellbeing, alongside that of your family and service users.
We will continue to challenge DWP when necessary to ensure we achieve this overarching priority, while still maintaining the service to our members.

We ask that members do all they can to aid us in ensuring we all remain as safe as possible during this period, and continue to feed your issues to your local reps or group office in Leeds, so we can progress them on your behalf.

Thank you for the co-operation you have displayed so far. I am committed to providing the leadership our group needs through these difficult times and will continue to press our demands on the employer to protect the health, safety and well-being of all of our members.
In solidarity.



12th March 2020 | Going abroad? Been abroad? CoronaVirus advice here.