PCS supports reasonable breaks in normal, paid working time for all members.
Local flexibility to take formal break time
PCS Briefing DWP/MB/056/17, issued 19/10/17, provides guidance for members about local flexibility to take formal break time under the DWP Flexible Working Hours Agreement (FWHA).
Local managers can agree, under FWHA paragraph 10.3, such formal break time as suits the needs of the business and the needs of colleagues. This means that, up to a cumulative total of 30 minutes daily, breaks could range from 6 x 5 minute breaks, 3 x10-minute breaks. 2 x 15-minute or a single 30 minute break. Local flexibility is dependent on local agreement but in all cases, employees in all parts of DWP must have the opportunity to take reasonable breaks in normal, paid working time in addition to any daily meal break. Where disagreements are not resolved informally, the DWP grievance and appeal procedures may be used. PCS Briefing DWP/BB/107/17 provides guidance for trade union representation and the right to be accompanied.
Flexible working hours agreement
The FWHA introduced a new entitlement, in addition to any daily meal break, for all DWP employees to have the opportunity to take reasonable breaks in normal, paid working time, from 1st November 2016. Paragraph 10 of the FWHA states:
10.1 Breaks - Employees must have the opportunity to take a flexible meal / lunch break somewhere in the middle [See Advice Q24] of their working day. In accordance with the Work Breaks policy this will be a paid meal break for full time employees and an unpaid meal break for part-time employees. However, where part-time employees wish to take a 15-minute break (as described in 10.2) at lunch time, they should be allowed to do so wherever operationally possible. Having this flexible approach for part time employees will allow the spacing of their breaks appropriately within their working day. In any case, meal breaks must not be taken at the beginning or end of the working day.
10.2. In addition to any daily meal break, employees in all parts of DWP, both Operations and Corporate, will have the opportunity to take reasonable breaks in normal, paid working time to help them maintain their health, safety and well-being. In respect of this, managers in Operations, Debt Management and the customer contact parts of Benefit Payment Systems Group will allow formal paid breaks [See Advice Q 23] up to a cumulative total of 30 minutes daily (e.g. 2 x 15-minute or 3 x10-minute breaks). For part-time employees the pro rata principle will be applied on the basis that the rate of accrual for these breaks for all employees will be at a rate of one 5-minute break for each hour of the employee’s working day up to a total of 30 minutes
10.3 Employees in Operations, Debt Management and customer contact roles in Benefit Payment Systems Group will have local flexibility to take such formal break time as suits the needs of the business and the needs of colleagues who provide the necessary levels of cover. Breaks must be taken within working time, not immediately at the start, or immediately before the end of the employee’s working day and not added to the start or end of a lunch break. Breaks for full-time employees must be taken outside of a period defined as a lunch period for that employee’s working pattern.
FWHA Advice for Breaks
The Advice section for the FWHA addresses four frequently asked questions. These are:
Q23 Can I split my two 15-minute breaks so that I have more but shorter breaks?
Yes. In Operations, Debt Management and customer contact parts of Benefit Payment Systems Group you will have formal breaks in normal working time of no more than a total of 30 minutes daily and may choose to take two 15-minute breaks – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Alternatively, you may choose to take three 10-minute breaks or six 5-minute breaks. However, breaks must be managed within the team so that business delivery is not disrupted. Everyone cannot take a break at the same time. Colleagues should consult together so that there is adequate planning to meet individual and operational needs during the working day.
Q24 If I work a later shift when will I take my ‘lunch’ break?
Lunch breaks have traditionally been taken during a two hour slot in the middle of the working day. Therefore employees working a late shift should take their break within a two hour slot in the middle of their working day. For example someone working a 12pm to 8pm shift would take their main break between 3pm and 5pm.
Q25 Does any time not spent working count as a break?
No. Short, ad-hoc paid interruptions to work, for example, for the toilet, medication, to quickly get a drink, will additionally take place in normal working time but do not constitute paid breaks in this context.
Q26 Do smokers get extra break time?
No. Employees who wish to smoke should do so during breaks that are available to all. Any additional smoking breaks must be taken in the employee’s own time.
Corporate Centre and Breaks
PCS wants all employees in the Corporate Centre to have the same agreement, under the FWHA, for breaks but DWP has refused to agree. PCS will continue to argue for the same agreement to apply in the Corporate Centre. DWP has confirmed that: The commitment for paid time off for breaks during the normal working day applies to everyone below SCS in DWP, regardless of where they work. Employees not covered by the formal (i.e. up to 30 mins) breaks procedure should arrange breaks flexibly, with colleagues, according to local needs.
PCS policies for improvements
PCS DWP Group Conference 2017 agreed policies for improvements. These include A47 (4 day leave during a 4 week period) and A48 (Formal Breaks for the Corporate Centre and Standard Training Credits of not less than 7.24/7.12). Our case for these improvements needs to be supported by evidence from Branches to support the need for immediate changes. Branches may provide such evidence and or feedback on issues related to the Breaks Policy to PCS at the address below.