PCS met with DWP management and raised the wide range of issues that members have highlighted with us about speaking with the public over the phone whilst working from home.
DWP management have agreed to work with the union on a risk assessment which will cover all issues raised and all the safeguards that must be put in place including a robust process for the six-point plan and the Unacceptable Customer Behaviour process. DWP management believe the softphones system would be safer than the widespread use of mobile phones to call customers. We were not aware that there were already a number of staff doing this from home and have raised that the risk assessment process is necessary for all staff using telephony at home to speak to the public. Anyone with concerns about the safety measures in place should raise this with your local PCS rep. The health, safety and welfare of our members and staff is paramount.
DWP still intend to proceed with the rollout and delivery of the kit but will not expect staff to use the phone part for speaking to claimants until the risk assessment has been carried out with PCS. An urgent meeting will be organised to do this.
The different strands of the business and local teams have created their own version of the 6-point plan which is why there are so many different variations out there. PCS have made it clear we need a generic national process that covers all the safety protocols and measures, if the different operational areas want to add to it, to make it land and work better with the specific claimant groups and area of work then this can be done in consultation with the union. We have highlighted that dealing with journal entries also needs safety measures as we have had incidents of unacceptable customer behaviour and suicide threats through this form of contact with the public.
We will update branches further once the meeting has taken place and an agreed position has been reached.