12 May 2021
Everyone does not have to work on a Saturday or beyond 17:00!
Collective Agreement assurances and safeguards must be applied in individual cases
Collective Agreement for the Employee Deal
This Briefing supports the proper application of the assurances and safeguards in the Collective Agreement https://intranet.dwp.gov.uk/policy/collective-agreement-employee-deal for working on a Saturday or to a specific time beyond 17:00. Key assurances under Collective Agreement 13(c) include:
(ii) not to fix more than one in five consecutive working days beyond 17:00, unless the employee chooses to do so;
(iii) not to fix more than one Saturday in four consecutive Saturdays, unless the employee chooses to do so;
These are safeguards not minimum requirements. Working Patterns Advice Q3 confirms that there is no requirement for every individual to do a minimum number of evening shifts per week or one in four Saturdays. This is because working pattern planning is about meeting staffing requirements at team level as explained under Working Patterns Advice Q4.The focus on team level accepts individual contributions might differ due to personal preferences and /or circumstances. There are two other key assurances under Collective Agreement 13 (h) &13 (i):
(h) In managing regular working patterns, managers will be fully aware of and comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 in respect of employees with protected characteristics (e.g. disability, religion/beliefs, age, pregnancy/maternity).
(i) Whether or not they are covered by the Equality Act 2010, for various reasons some employees may not be in a position to work certain hours or days over the six months. In these cases, managers must work constructively with colleagues to find alternative arrangements which enable the individual to combine meeting their personal or caring responsibilities with making a contribution to the team requirements. Such alternatives will be reviewed every six months.
DWP’s objective is to meet its staffing requirements at team level, accepting individual contributions can differ one from another; and in that context, DWP has agreed for various reasons some employees may not be in a position to work certain hours or days. In these cases, when individual employees have a reasonable case not to work to a specific time such as 8pm or work on a Saturday they should not be required to do so.
Treating everyone equally may be unfair
Acas guidance warns against requiring all employees to work late and this warning also apples to requiring all employees to work on Saturday. Treating everyone equally may be unfair and, in some cases, unlawful. The Acas guide, “Sex discrimination: key points for the workplace”, on Part-time working and flexible working states, on page 22, that:
Employers and managers should avoid making assumptions when assessing requests and consider each one individually with regard to the business circumstances. This is to meet flexible working regulations and avoid sex discrimination claims. So, while female employees are often the main child carers, an employer should not assume a male employee is less likely to want flexibility for child care. For example, an employer which thinks that requests from men may be easier to turn down, or which prioritises requests from women, is likely to be discriminating against men. Instead, employers should look to handle requests consistently.
At the same time, working hours or patterns which clash with an employee’s child care responsibilities are more likely to affect women. For example, an employer’s requirement that all employees work until 6pm at least once a week could indirectly discriminate against female employees. If an employer believes there is a genuine business need for all employees to do this, it would have to be able to justify the rule as what the law terms ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. An employer would also have to look at and introduce a way or ways to reduce or remove the discriminatory effect – for example, by providing child care support.
Independent Panels safeguard agreed assurances
The Collective Agreement introduced Independent Panels as a safeguard against perverse decisions. Failure to apply the assurances for working patterns, including part-year contracts, as intended under the Collective Agreement, which are not corrected under normal grievance and appeal procedures, can be submitted to an Independent Panel under paragraph 30 of the Collective Agreement by your local PCS Representative.
PCS advice for members
If you are unable to work on a Saturday, or beyond 17:00, because of your caring responsibilities, or for any other reason covered by Collective Agreement 13(h) or 13(i) as detailed above, you should first discuss with your colleagues to find a team solution. If not resolved discuss the application of the Collective Agreement assurances, in your personal case, with your line manager. Line Managers are expected to recognise that everyone is not required to work on a Saturday, or to “certain hours” such as 6:30pm or 8pm, and to apply the assurances in the Collective Agreement for employees unable to do so.
Use the DWP Grievance and Appeal Procedure to resolve a disputed decision about your working hours or pattern: https://intranet.dwp.gov.uk/policy/grievance-and-issue-resolution-procedure A perverse Appeal decision can be submitted by your local PCS Representative for correction by the Independent Panel. Contact your local PCS Representative for advice, support and representation when you have a disagreement about the application of Collective Agreement assurances in your personal case.
Group Assistant Secretary
11 May 2021
PCS raise concerns with DWP handling of Rotation 9 and Saturday opening in Jobcentres
Group Executive Committee (GEC) negotiators met with senior DWP management on 7 May 2021 to discuss Rotation 9 as well as Saturday opening in Jobcentres and Universal Credit Service Centres. PCS were advised by management that no concerns had been raised with them and that the communications issued by them had landed well. In reality, PCS are hearing a different version of events as the GEC have been inundated by concerned members across DWP.
Many members have contacted the GEC with regards the one-to-ones that are currently taking place. Worryingly, this includes managers who are conducting the one-to-ones and feel that they are not prepared to speak with their staff. Many have told the GEC that they feel that they are under pressure to coerce their staff into accepting a working pattern that they cannot adhere to or desire. This is a worrying development that cannot be allowed to continue as any discussions on working patterns must be done within the terms of the Employee Deal Collective Agreement. Senior DWP management have responded to this by stating that it is not acceptable and that leaders must be prepared for the one-to-ones and that they will be going out from today to reinforce this message.
Who is in scope for Saturday working?
There has been some confusion around who is in scope to work on a Saturday from September. The recruitment of new Work Coaches and existing DWP staff being promoted has meant that many of those staff are currently working in offices such as Corporate Centre Hubs as there is no space at the moment in Jobcentres. DWP have confirmed that Work Coaches currently based in an office out with a Jobcentre, will be in scope to work on Saturday’s from September as they will be transferred to a Rapid Estate Expansion Programme (REEP) site by then.
Senior DWP management have advised that the coverage requirement percentages in Universal Credit Service Centres and Jobcentres will remain as they were in Rotation 7 as they don’t possess enough data, due to the pandemic, to forecast demand for Rotation 9. GEC negotiators pressed on whether local flexibilities remained in place with sites being given the autonomy to go below the percentages if they could manage this. Management confirmed that Jobcentre managers have the autonomy to go below the coverage requirement percentages as is the case for non-telephony work in Service Centres.
The GEC received reports of Jobcentres having a 20% coverage requirement on Saturday’s in the North East and the Midlands. Senior DWP management confirmed that this should not be the case and that this figure did appear high for a Saturday. As they cannot forecast demand for September 2021, management are not in a position to say how many staff will be required in Jobcentres. However, they expect to go above the minimum allowed safe number in a Jobcentre as the Job Retention Scheme comes to an end on 30 September 2021.
Saturday opening in REEP sites
DWP have confirmed that the REEP sites will open on Saturday’s from September, but only if there are 30 FTE or more staff at the office. As the REEP sites will continue to open at various times in the near future, they will begin working on Saturday’s on different dates. Members working at REEP sites will still be given three months’ notice of working on Saturday’s, but will have a shorter rotation period as a result. Their rotation will still end on 6 March 2022, in line with everyone else.
PCS still in dispute with DWP over Saturday working
PCS have reinforced our opposition to extending Saturday working during the pandemic. PCS do not accept that it is safe to open on Saturday’s on safety grounds. We are already seeing on a daily basis an increased number of Jobcentres close due to COVID-19 since the extension face to face activity. In fact, Wigan Jobcentre closed on Friday for a “circuit break” as a result of a number of staff testing positive for the virus. With scientists forecasting a third wave of COVID-19, PCS feel it is irresponsible to be opening up face-to-face services in Jobcentres and opening further sites for even longer from September 2021. PCS have called for a “circuit break” in all DWP buildings over the weekends, in order that every site has the chance to be cleaned and made safe for members coming in from Monday to Friday. Unfortunately, DWP do not agree with this as they state the department provides a six-day service and maintain the mantra that DWP offices are "Covid secure".
Vote YES in the consultative ballot on safety
PCS are currently running a consultative ballot on safety in Jobcentres and would urge every member to vote yes. A large yes vote will enable GEC negotiators to go back to DWP management and secure a safe working environment for our members. The closing date for voting is Friday 21 May 2021.
DWP have agreed to meet with PCS the week before letters are issued to staff on 5 June 2021. Any member who has concerns regarding how their one-to-one was conducted should email firstname.lastname@example.org
Advice to members
For this round of one to one meetings members are reminded that they Employee Deal Collective Agreement should be used for planning. This means that you should be asked for your preferences, including a Saturday where your office is due to open on that day, before any working patterns are suggested or confirmed. Staff should not be mandated to work a Saturday.
Where staff have personal reasons why they cannot commit to working a Saturday or any other specific day or time, then the safeguards PCS negotiated as part of the Collective Agreement at paragraphs 13(h)(i) should be highlighted in your discussions with your manager. If you are unable to agree the pattern with your line manager and you cannot commit to the pattern they propose you should challenge this through the grievance process and ultimately the Independent Panel of required.
Member are also reminded that where Saturday working is agreed paragraph 13(g) of the agreement states "...managers will accommodate the choice of non-working day for Saturday workers in the preceding or following week."
Group Assistant Secretary
There’s no reason why this activity needs to be confined to just PCS reps and activists. If you know someone who isn’t a member of PCS, we’d like you to ask them to become a PCS member. The link to the website at which they can join is at the bottom of this briefing.
There are many reasons staff may want to join PCS:
· To be a part of an organised, campaigning union
· To get involved in our campaign work
· To have a voice within workplace negotiation, collectively with other members
· To be consulted over issues which affect DWP workers such as pay, terms and conditions
· To get involved in our equality groups
· To be able to vote in PCS elections and stand for position
· To help shape PCS policy about issues which affect those working for DWP and the wider civil service
· To receive advice about work issues
· To receive one-to-one support about HR issues where necessary
· To receive legal support relating to employment tribunals and personal injury claims
Please help build your union and ask your colleagues to join PCS today.
Group Organiser Vice President