At the 2019 DWP group conference, a motion was passed instructing the group executive committee to demand the ending of recording facility time on SOP and, failing that, to seek improvements to the process.
Since then the GEC has been in discussion with management. It has not been possible to persuade DWP to stop using SOP. Currently SOP is the only electronic method for DWP to collate the overall amount of facility time used each year. DWP has to collate the overall use of facility time usage at the instruction of the Cabinet Office, who publish it on the gov.uk website each year.
In the longer term management hope to be able to use the new DWP IT system ‘Re-Imagine’ to replace SOP for this purpose. However Re-Imagine is only in the early stages of development and if or when this may happen is not at the moment clear.
At present therefore DWP are unable to agree to an end to the recording of facility time on SOP. However they have agreed to implement several measures that will go some way to addressing the concerns of reps:
- The use of an alternative tab rather than the ‘overtime‘ tab when accessing SOP
- Reps now only have to record the total amount of facility time taken without breaking it down into TUD, Health and Safety and ULR time
- Clarification that the only information shared with the Cabinet Office is the total amount of facility time used across DWP as a whole and the total financial cost of this. No other information is shared with the Cabinet Office.
Why is it important for reps to record their facility time on SOP?
The only reason facility time has to be recorded on SOP is to enable DWP to give a figure of facility time usage to the Cabinet Office. Last year, when SOP was not being used, DWP estimated that the total amount of facility time used across DWP was just 0.03% of the DWP pay bill, when our overall allocation is 0.1%.
PCS believes that in reality reps use most, if not all, of their facility time allocations. But if 0.03% is the figure published by the Cabinet Office it looks as though we are not using anything like our full allocation and so we do not need an allocation as high as 0.1%. An argument could be made by those in government hostile to PCS to reduce our allocation. This is why it is so important to record facility time on SOP.
For this reason it is essential that all reps record their facility time on SOP so as to not give ammunition to those who would like to see our facility time cut. It is official duty to record facility time on SOP so doing this does not eat into your facility time allocation.
We are aware that many reps have had concerns about recording their facility time on SOP and so have not been doing it. The GEC is now strongly urging all reps to start to record their 2019/20 facility on SOP from now on.
All facility time for the current year must be recorded on SOP by early April as around 15 April is when the DWP will collate the total amount used and pass it to the Cabinet Office. Any facility time for the 2019/20 facility time year recorded after then will not be part of the figure sent to the Cabinet Office and so will appear as having not been used.
The GEC strongly encourages all reps to ensure that all their facility time used so far this year is input into SOP by the end of February 2020. This can be done in a single action and it is not necessary to go back and record it month by month. Remember the only figure on SOP of any interest to management is the total amount of facility time used in the year as a whole, not how much reps have used each month.
The earlier that reps do this the better to ensure that it is on SOP, and approved by their line managers, well in advance of the end of March. Time used in March 2020 should be recoded on SOP as soon as possible in April.
Unfortunately there remain problems with using SOP that reps need to be aware of. SOP does not allow you to go and make entries more than three months ago. However as the time can be input for several months in a single action this should not be a problem.
Another issue is that if overtime has already been recorded on SOP in a given week then facility time cannot be input until a later week. However it is possible to input overtime and facility time for the same week, using a single timecard, if done at the same time.
When using SOP to record facility time, reps are advised to follow the management guidance word for word to ensure that incorrect entries are not made. PCS will continue to press for an alternative to SOP to be used for the recording of facility time but reps must understand that for now it is essential to reuse SOP to record their facility time.
- Branches should copy this briefing to all reps in their branch
- Ensure that this briefing is discussed at their next BEC so that every rep is made aware of the importance of using SOP to record their facility time.
Any problems with recording facility time on SOP should be raised with DWP group office via firstname.lastname@example.org.