PCS has called on the Home Office to recognise the efforts of staff regularly attending workplaces throughout the pandemic by incorporating up to 1 hour's daily travel time into their working week.
Members will be aware the Department has launched a new process of claiming extra expenses (up to £26) for working from home. PCS has cautiously welcomed the measure to ensure members are not out of pocket from experiencing extra costs related to working at home.
While PCS welcome any additional support to staff working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic the Department has many members who are required to come in to work, and have been doing so for most of the pandemic. These are mainly in Border Force, HMPO and in the administrative grades where essential work cannot be completed remotely. It has been our experience that this has in some cases led to divisions and resentment amongst members at the extra travel time and costs incurred and also the increased risks to them and their families of contracting Covid-19 from exposure during travel to and time at work. It should be immediately stated that these are false divisions and we have so much more that brings us together than separates us. Beating this pandemic and fighting for the protection and advancement of all our terms and conditions is something we can only achieve collectively and together.
Whilst the protection and shielding of the vulnerable and minimisation of the numbers having to come to the office are our primary aims, along with ensuring offices are Covid adjusted and social distancing is maintained, we believe that there is more that could be done for those coming in.
The Department has made moves to ensure that members working at home are financially reimbursed for costs, and we believe that it would be appropriate to make allowances for travel time for those coming in to work. The TUC have calculated that the average daily travel time is 59 minutes a day. We believe that travel time, up to a maximum of one hour should be temporarily incorporated into shifts. As with the home working expenses we see this as temporary until 31 March 2021 and then to be reviewed. We believe that this would be a positive step because it would;
- Equalise the position with those who are working from home and who are not required to travel when they ordinarily would.
- Reduce the average amount of time spent in the office, with consequential benefits to potential transmission of the virus.
- Act as a bridge for members who are in phases 3 and 4 who are required to come back.
- Increase morale for those who have been coming in, as a show of recognition for their service.
Our proposal is for actual travel time incurred, and capped at an hour a day. It would have to be taken in shift rather than built as flexi but we recognise that an alternative solution may be required in operational shift working environments.
Members have rightly been calling for recognition of their efforts and risks they have taken by attending the workplace. We see this as a potentially positive move that would genuinely recognise the efforts of members while also cutting the amount of time in the workplace reducing the risk of transmission of the virus.
Disappointingly, our proposal was rejected by the department, citing that this would have an impact on pay costs. PCS is not satisfied with this reasoning, we believe that this temporary measure would go some way to demonstrate via actions, rather than just words, the department’s appreciation of its workforce. We will be going back to the department to push for reconsideration of this proposal.