DWP Coronavirus HR policy guidance for annual leave was updated on 14 May following consultation, but not agreement, with PCS. Improvements have been introduced but DWP continues to refuse to allow all staff full access to the ‘2 year carry over’ for annual leave.
PCS will continue to argue for all staff to have equality of access to the ‘2 year carry over’ for annual leave and will support all PCS members who have been denied this.
PCS had raised concerns regarding the potentially discriminatory nature of the revised policy, imposed without full and proper consultation with your union, and were able to achieve some amendments to reduce the risk, but the changes have not gone far enough.
The GEC negotiators further challenged the ability for any of our members to make good use of their leave during lockdown for rest, leisure, and outdoor social activity as defined by the DWP annual leave policy. Disappointingly, rather than use this correct definition to maximise the ability for members to receive the flexible 2-year carry over announced by government, DWP have instead chosen to re-write the definition of what leave should be used for, to "relax and fully switch off from work."
PCS has questioned DWP as to whether their new policy meets the requirement under the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which allows for a flexible 2-year carry over for any statutory annual leave members are unable to take due to coronavirus related conditions. DWP claim that it does meet the terms of the new legislation as “entitlement is qualified”. But PCS is concerned that DWP guidance should allow access to a 2-year carry over, under the statutory criteria, for both statutory and contractual annual leave. DWP should accept that the national ‘lockdown’, with restrictions on travel and closure of hotels, does mean that for the vast majority of colleagues at work, and on special leave, that it was not reasonably practicable for them to take some or all of their annual leave.
Advice for members
PCS will support all members who suffer detriment as a result of this revised annual leave policy and would encourage you to exercise your right to dispute any unfair decisions using the normal Grievance and Appeal Procedures. Members should contact their local PCS representative for advice and support.
PCS seeks further improvements
The PCS DWP Group Executive Committee (GEC) has agreed we should push for further annual leave related improvements for all members.
All of the below issues have been raised with the employer and will be pursued by the negotiators:
- the DWP annual leave policy must be equal for all staff and access to the flexible two year carry over must be made available to anyone who requires it
- Increase in the percentage of allowable leave across all operational and formerly corporate centre areas
- Increase the annual leave carry over above the current 10 days allowed, into the next annual leave year
- Add pregnant workers to the list of DWP staff who can benefit from the government's flexible 2 year carry over
PCS is continuing to argue the case for full implementation of the ‘2 year carry over’ with DWP on the basis of these demands agreed by the GEC.
If you require any assistance in this matter please contact your local branch representative in the first instance or, if required, escalate the issue to group office via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Appendix A – DWP Coronavirus HR policy guidance
Annual leave and flexi leave
31. Normal annual leave rules will apply to all colleagues during the coronavirus emergency. Use of leave is important to enable all colleagues to relax and fully switch off from work, whether that is not attending the office to work, not logging on to work from home or during prolonged special leave not undertaking keep in touch activities, participating in staff phone ins, etc. We recognise that during the period of any national ‘lockdown’ the way colleagues relax and recuperate will be significantly different from normal, e.g. travel and social interaction with people from other households is prevented, as is travel, but everyone is nevertheless encouraged to take time out for their wellbeing.
31a. The normal annual leave policy is summarised below. The only deviation from normal rules is described at 31c) and d) below.
31b. Normal rules for everyone – the expectation is that the majority of colleagues will be able to manage their annual leave within the existing policy flexibilities whether they are working or on paid special leave, that is:
i) Employees may carry over up to 10 days leave into next year’s entitlement (pro-rata for part-time employees), more than 10 days may be carried over only in exceptional circumstances.
ii) If employees are unable to take all of their leave during their current leave year because of a long period of sickness absence, they may be able to carry forward any untaken leave into the next leave year.
iii) Employees may anticipate up to 10 days leave from next year’s entitlement (pro-rata for part-time employees).
iv) Employees may request to be paid for untaken whole days of leave providing they have taken at least the statutory minimum amount of annual leave (currently 28 days). Employees cannot normally carry forward or be paid for statutory leave, although the following exception can apply to the normal carry forward rule.
31c. Extension to carry-over limit - due to their being required to work, some colleagues may not be able to request leave or take as much annual leave as they would like, or their leave requests may be declined. Additionally, the strong advice given to employees who received an NHS letter because they are in the “Clinically Extremely Vulnerable” category means that use of annual leave during paid special leave for this group is impracticable and severely restricted. This is because the NHS letter advises ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’ colleagues to stay at home at all times and minimise the time they spend in shared rooms even with others they live with. Others on paid special leave for over a month may find that their circumstances are similarly acute for personal reasons caused by coronavirus (COVID 19), making their use of annual leave also impracticable and unusually restricted in the context of all UK citizens experiencing the restriction of limited time outside home, no social contact, no overseas travel, etc.
31d. Therefore, while all colleagues should aim to manage their annual leave now and after the coronavirus emergency within the normal 10 days carry over limit, those colleagues experiencing restrictions because either they are required to work, or they are in the NHS “Clinically Extremely Vulnerable” group, or they are similarly restricted for personal COVID reasons, will have their carry over limits relaxed for up to two years so they will, if necessary, have until the end of their leave year following 31 March 2022 to bring any excess leave within normal limits. This guarantee will not be needed by everyone who is unable to take annual leave because they are required to work or in the ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’ group – only those who would breach normal carry over rules as a result of this restriction.
31e. Unpaid special leave – the very limited number of colleagues potentially in this group may also ask to use annual leave during their unpaid special leave but those on unpaid special leave for a continuous month, or more, must remember that under normal annual leave rules, unpaid absences cause a 1/12th reduction in annual leave for every complete month of unpaid absence. Therefore, for these colleagues’ annual leave will reduce for complete months’ even if it is not taken. Should anyone on unpaid special leave ask to use annual leave concurrently, managers must stop and re-start the unpaid special leave on SOP to generate salary for the intervening annual leave period. Managers must also suspend any ‘keep in touch’ activity during annual leave. Normal year-end leave carry-over rules apply to this group
32. Managers who grant annual or flexi leave must inform the employee that it is conditional on the business being able to support the absence at the time. They can require employees to cancel or postpone annual leave or flexi leave if it is necessary to deliver business but only if it is necessary and the only viable option, and HR advice (via 0345 241 5342) has been taken, particularly where the cancellation of leave is likely to incur additional costs. Very exceptionally, managers can also recall employees (who are working, not those on special leave) to duty from annual leave. If this is done, the business must consider any claims for expenses of any costs incurred as a result of the recall.