PCS is continuing to raise a large number of issues with DWP management over the coronavirus. Here are some of the recent developments on the issues reps and members have been raising with PCS.
Following on the NHS publishing a list of ‘extremely vulnerable people’ in addition to its original list of ‘vulnerable people’, there was speculation that this may mean a different approach in DWP. DWP have confirmed with PCS that there is no change to DWP’s definition of, or guidance to, staff classed vulnerable. This means that members who are either over 70, pregnant or have an underlying health condition, as originally defined, must not attend DWP offices. They can work from home where possible.
Regrettably DWP has not changed its guidance for staff who live with a vulnerable person and still expects them to attend work.
DWP have stressed to PCS that it has two key priorities at present. Both are equally important. One is dealing with the large number of new claims to benefit. The other is ensuring that staff paying these benefits work in a safe environment. DWP recognise that if they do not keep their staff safe then they will not be able to pay the benefits. No manager must be allowed to compromise on staff safety.
This should be practiced in all DWP offices, all of the time. Staff should sit and work no less than 2 meters away from their colleagues. DWP/MB/041/20 provides detail on how this can be done in practice.
Working from Home
PCS wants as many members as possible to be able to work from home. DWP has procured a large number of devices to facilitate more working from home and we will be pressing for working from home to be increased as fast as possible.
DWP is starting to recruit large numbers of new staff, mainly at the AO grade. It has begun this with a pilot in the Manchester area asking staff to identify friends and family who may wish to work for DWP under non-fair and open recruitment. This has had a large take-up initially.
Given the huge increase in workloads (one million new claims to UC have been made in the last 2 weeks) new recruits are much needed. However PCS is insistent that new recruits entering our offices must not, under any circumstances, weaken the need for strict social distancing.
There is no ban on taking annual leave and agreed leave can and should be taken as normal if the member wishes to take it.
PCS received many complaints of G4S staff attending DWP offices when they should have been at home because they feared they would not be paid by G4S if they stayed at home.
PCS has now been told by DWP that G4S staff who do not attend work, because they are vulnerable or self-isolating, will still be paid by G4S.
DWP has temporarily increased the rates of overtime. Until 19 April 2020 double time will be paid for all weekday and weekend overtime in the AA to SEO grades, including part time staff. Overtime has also been reintroduced for Grades 6 and 7 over the same period.
Policy on how much overtime can be worked remain in place. Policy on how much overtime can be worked remain in place. There is a maximum average of 48 hours per week that can be worked but this is an average calculated over a period and not in any one week and there must be a weekly rest day of either one day in seven, or two days in fourteen.