Future Work Arrangements & Holidays
As set out in the Chief Executive’s latest staff letter it is clear that the relaxation of the lock down arrangements within Wales is cautious, with many of the original restrictions remaining in place in Wales.
The three weekly review of the conditions in Wales will continue going forward and will generally determine the pace and order in which a number of our services can begin to be re-introduced. As a Council, it is important that we continue our planning for this alongside taking the opportunity, where appropriate, to make any changes to our service provision to reflect the changing environment, use of technology and resident expectation. Collectively we need to make use of the position in which we find ourselves and ensure we do not simply revert to our former ways of working.
1. Physical re-opening of Council Premises
As referenced in the latest staff letter, colleagues from Corporate Estates and Health & Safety have created a guidance document on how any re-occupation of buildings will be undertaken during the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak, taking all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace using the Guidance under regulation 7A of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020. A summary of the key points from that guidance is attached but if you wish to read through the whole document, then this can be accessed via the Source or Inform. If you do not have access to either the Source or Inform, please contact your line manager and arrangements will be made to forward the document to you.
Whilst Corporate Estates staff and key service managers will be working on preparing buildings for future occupation by using the attached documentation, any actual reopening of buildings to staff will be determined by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and will not be before the review at the end of August 2020. All buildings currently closed will remain closed until this point and staff should not attempt to gain entry.
In addition to the above being agreed by SLT, any reopening of our premises or indeed the reintroduction of service provision, will be subject to a Risk Assessment process along with an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA). Please note that this process and associated guidance has been discussed with your trade union colleagues.
2. Resumption of Council Services
In terms of the reintroduction of services, then for the majority of our ‘non-frontline services’, then the current agile home-working arrangements will continue as the standard operating arrangement moving forward and at least until 31st August with the likelihood of a continuation (in whole or part) beyond this date. The Chief Executive also referenced the facilities that some of you have at home, that may not be conducive to longer term agile home working. With that in mind, we have identified a suite of options that can be made available and this will include such items as laptops, dual screens, chairs and collapsible desks and the details of this offer will be shared with you all shortly.
In respect of recording staff time whilst continuing with the agile home working arrangements, you will recall back in March the Council agreed with the trade unions that the existing Flexi-time Working Hours Scheme and Fixed Hours Working arrangements would be temporarily suspended whilst we dealt with the initial phases of COVID-19. This allowed you to operate your working hours to best suit your domestic situations without the need to record the times that you were actually working i.e. it was undertaken on the basis of mutual trust between you and the Council. This has worked well so far and indeed following the recent staff survey over 86% of you said that where possible, it was important that you could organise your own work load moving forward.
As time has unfolded, it has become clear that this virus will be with us for a considerable period of time, so taking these points into consideration, then as we will most likely continue with agile home working arrangements wherever possible, SLT has agreed with the trade unions that we will continue with this ‘temporary suspension’ until March 2021, albeit we will review the position again with the unions early in the new year (2021).
3. Annual Leave
Recently, the Joint Council for Wales (JCW)[i] agreed a joint statement on COVID-19 outlining some of the key workforce issues which have been considered by the JCW since the start of the COVID-19 emergency and to provide guidance and advice to local authorities and trade unions on these matters. Of particular relevance to this area were the points made with regard to staff health and wellbeing and annual leave.
The JCW commented that regardless of what role is undertaken, everyone needs to take a break from work. This is key to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of all staff, including those staff shielding, who are pregnant, are living with a person shielding or with childcare responsibilities. Clearly having the ability to take leave is key in this area as it is important to ensure that employees are not working for too long a protracted period without a break. Some key areas they highlighted were that staff and managers should discuss and agree what leave can be taken; new requests for annual leave should be considered and approved, wherever possible and that as a significant number of employees will be in roles where the demands of the job will not prevent them from taking their planned annual leave it is not anticipated that there will be a need for a large proportion of staff to request a carry forward of their annual leave.
Taking on board the principle of staff health and wellbeing, and whilst many have already started to do so, all staff (as referenced above) across the Council will now be actively encouraged and expected to start taking their annual leave. Only in exceptional circumstances with regard to service provision, and with the specific authorisation of a (SLT) Director, should any requested leave not be agreed.
Therefore, it is important that you as employees now have conversations with your managers to agree a plan of using your leave during this year to 31st March 2021. All of us, including SLT, cannot simply determine to keep our leave for when social restrictions might be loosened; so we all must take a reasonable proportion of leave throughout the year. This includes any carried over leave from last year which if not already taken, must be used by no later than 31st August 2020.
As part of your leave planning you will need to set aside up to 4 days leave to cover the Christmas 2020 closedown which has already been agreed. As flexi and TOIL was suspended as at March 2020, it is only the days banked up until that point, that can be used at the above Christmas closure period.
As always we fully appreciate all of your support and commitment to the Council during these challenging times.
Finally, if you have any particular query around this matter, please speak to your Director in the first instance.
Senior Leadership Team