HMPO Update – Covid-19

09 Dec 2020

We continue to meet with management and have been discussing the return to workplaces, interview offices, office cleaning and opening hours and PO1s.

Return to workplace

PCS continue to engage with the department to ensuring that a safety-first approach is adopted, minimising risks to our members. Despite the government’s stated position that ‘if you can work effectively from home you should do so’, the Home Office has chosen to maintain its current Return to Work policy, we would encourage members to speak to their local branches with any concerns they may have.

The recent change in the FAQs meaning Clinically Vulnerable (CV) members are now liable for calling into the office has caused concerns.  PCS believes that this change was premature, given the calling of national lockdown, and the continuing high levels of the virus in communities.  Any members who are now being contacted about returning to the office should be completing the Individual Risk Indicator form and having conversations with their managers.

Sadly, there has been a recent rise in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in our workplaces. This is, of course, of significant concern to our members. We are pushing relentlessly for appropriate improvements to the layout of our workplaces, the setting of appropriate maximum office occupancy levels, adjustments as appropriate to workplace attendance patterns as well as the provisions of enhanced cleaning levels and other control measures (such as screens).

Whilst the employer is obliged to inform the local trade union of any positive COVID cases reported, along with numbers of staff self- isolating and actions take, it is unfortunate that compliance has been patchy.  PCS reps continue to seek this information so that the true extent of the potential issue can be assessed, and vital actions taken.

Interview Offices and Counters

The department continue to put plans in place for the reopening of our customer service areas, but there are no definite dates at present. Work is ongoing in preparation for possible opening in December.  Risk assessments and planning for all the offices have been shared and we have been assured all necessary precautions will be in place to keep our members safe in these areas. If you have any concerns, please contact your local branch.

Office cleaning

We are aware that the cleaning and hygiene standards in some offices remains an ongoing concern to members. If you identify any issues, problems or working practices that call into question the safety of your workplace please contact your local PCS representatives, and your local managers to have the issues rectified as soon as possible.

Office opening hours

Due to the restrictions around office maximum occupancy numbers, some members have reported they are unable to work their normal working pattern, due to caring responsibilities or health reasons. In some instances, this has resulted in the department requesting that members reduce their contracted hours. PCS strongly opposes this position, it is not the fault of our membership that the employer is unable to provide flexibility during this period and the department should be looking creatively at how to support these adjustments without members losing pay.

Members cannot be compelled to alter their contracts to alternative working hours, and they should not feel under pressure to do so.  Please contact your local rep if you have concerns or have been requested to reduce your contracted hours.

PO1s

Whilst not directly related to the impact of Covid pandemic several members have been in touch concerned about the future of the PO1 grade within HMPO.  The roll out of DAP, to replace AMS by late 2021 will likely see a reduction in the requirement for PO1s in the office.  This planning remains at a very early stage and PCS are trying to engage with the department about options.  At this stage the department are unable to provide full answers about their plans and their implications.  PCS will continue to push for the best outcome for members, whether that be redeployment to AA work in the wider Home Office or civil service, or targeted development to facilitate promotion opportunities.

If you’re not already a PCS member – join on-line today.  If you are interested in getting more involved speak to your local reps.

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