Work and Health Update – July 2020

15 Jul 2020

As a result of COVID-19, meetings with senior operational management ceased as all negotiations dealt with issues covering the pandemic. After pressure from PCS, these meetings have now been reinstated and the first one with senior Work and Health management since 26 February 2020 took place on 2 July.

Members Working from Home

The group executive committee (GEC) has received numerous reports from members who are at home, but have not yet received the appropriate kit to work from home. The department has provided 19,500 Surface Pros to staff to enable them to work from home and are in discussions to look at the possibility of more being issued to enable more members to work from home.

Virtual Service Centre

The department set up a Virtual Service Centre (VSC) to help address the 2.5 million claims to Universal Credit (UC). The DWP redeployed 2,700 staff from other parts of DWP and Other Government Departments (OGD) to work from home in the VSC all working on UC, mainly as Case Managers. The grading at the VSC has varied from Grade 6 to AO, however the duties are graded at AO. Management advised that they have introduced a new Work Flow Co-ordinator role to provide support to the staff carrying out Case Manager duties. A number of members had raised concerns with PCS regarding the support mechanism and training that was provided as they had no benefit experience and no experience of dealing with the public. Hopefully this new Work Flow Co-ordinator role will provide the assistance required as will the new Technical Team Support, which will consist of experienced Case Managers. 

Front of House Grading

Jobcentre members will be well aware that PCS have been raising grading issues affecting this group of members for some time. Whether it be AO members who are or have been carrying out, what we have argued, Work Coach duties or Work Coaches carrying out work of the grade below them. Members may recall that updates have been provided in several bulletins over the past 18 months. We were advised in January 2020 that proposed job roles would be provided to us for comment. However, as a result of COVID-19 the priority of the department was to pay benefits and process an unprecedented amount of new claims and as a result all consultation on Work and Health issues were suspended. The GEC are still being contacted by AO members working in Jobcentres advising that they are still being asked to carry out, what both PCS and themselves consider Work Coach duties. PCS are determined to resolve this issue once and for all. As a result of PCS raising this issue once again at the Work and Health meeting, management have agreed to meet with us shortly to discuss a way forward.  An update will be provided after this meeting.

Opening Hours for Telephony / Adherence to Workforce Manager Scheduling for Homeworkers

The GEC had received contact from members working from home who had been told that they had been scheduled and were finding it difficult to adhere to this due to circumstances such as looking after a small child. The view of senior DWP management is that local conversations are important and that all workers should be treated the same, whether they are in the office or at home. Any member working from home who is experiencing difficulty with any aspect of carrying out their duties should contact their line manager immediately and have a conversation with them with a view to getting the appropriate level of support. Any member in this position should contact their local PCS representative for support if the issue cannot be resolved. It is clear in the Softphone Health and Safety Impact Assessment document quoted below, that the public are entitled to privacy when we are dealing with them over the phone. If you have to have your workstation set up in the living areas of your home which are used by others during the day, then you cannot do telephony work as it would not be private.  Similarly, even if you have a discrete area to work from but you have the responsibility for looking after children then doing telephony work is not appropriate.

Employees who work from home but do not have privacy e.g. have children in the home, should not be required to make/receive calls from claimants.

Flexibility on working hours

Management have confirmed that flexibility is still being applied to working hours recognising that individuals continue to have difficulties as a result of covid-19 in doing their normal hours.  Members have difficulties with the lack of public transport and the increasing congestion on public transport which is raising safety worries. Normal childcare and support has been made more difficult with covid-19 risks and family members shielding and the lack of play-schemes being run over the school holidays etc.   You should let your team leader know about any issues that could impact on your working hours and can raise with your local PCS rep if the difficulties are not addressed.

PCS advice and support

Any member who works in Work and Health and requires assistance or is seeking clarification on anything included in this bulletin, please contact your local PCS representative in the first place or email operational.tus@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

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