Earlier this week a number of sites reported that local managers were placing restrictions on flexible working, particularly in relation to the use of assumed consent. The restrictions included members being told that assumed consent had been suspended over the Christmas period, and at least one site issued an e-mail to staff advising them that assumed consent would only be allowed in emergency situations, and an HEO would make the decision as to whether the circumstances classed as an emergency or not. There was even one report of a member being told that they faced disciplinary action for using assumed consent to leave work early.
When the issues were raised with us with we immediately raised it with UC management, and we were given an assurance on 19 December that assumed consent had not been withdrawn. Management believed that they had allowed as much leave as possible, so were operating with staffing levels that meant that they would be busy, and needed those in work to do as many hours as possible, but they did not believe the situation was so exceptional as to warrant any suspension of Assumed Consent. They also said that no one was being disciplined for using assumed consent.
On Wednesday we received contact from several other UC Service Centres about similar restrictions being placed on members in those sites. We again raised these with management and a telekit was arranged for late afternoon. Management reiterated that this was a busy time and they would like people to make as little use of flexi as possible, so that they could make sure all claimants get paid and that those staff in work are under as little pressure as possible. However, they maintained that they were doing this by asking staff to consider the delivery of business and not by withdrawing assumed consent or stopping people from making use of flexible working. They accepted that some poor messaging had gone out in some places, and that certain sites were being over restrictive. They agreed to put out a clear message to all staff and managers. In this (attached for reference) they confirm: “We have not withdrawn the use of flexi in this period or the use of assumed consent.”
The management position is that, as should be standard practice in normal circumstances, where someone wants to make use of assumed consent they should advise their immediate line manager as a courtesy. What could be different is that the manager might have a conversation about whether someone could stay longer, if there are payments outstanding or other urgent work that needs to be carried out. However, if the member says “no, I need to leave, or come in later” then this should not be a problem. There should be no requirement for approval to be sought from HEO or SEO level.
There should also be no automatic cancellation of, or ban on, the use of TU time over the festive period.
Any continuing problems should be notified to firstname.lastname@example.org