HMCTS is proposing extended operating hours, including evenings and Saturdays, as part of the approach to Covid-19 recovery.
We are aware that a number of regions, despite a commitment to national consultation, have already begun this work. This is regrettable, and we have alerted HMCTS to our concerns about this type of premature activity. We encourage members to report any concerns that they have about any local initiatives to the union so that we can raise these with the employer representatives, and also check that any local proposals are in line with the developing national approach.
In respect of PCS members employed by HMCTS your participation in the extended operating hour’s pilots is entirely voluntary. Again, we advise members to contact the union immediately if they feel under undue pressure to commit to extended hours.
PCS met with employer representatives yesterday (6) and we have agreed with them a temporary pause on HMCTS planning at every level on the development or implantation of work to allow further negotiations to take place. HMCTS has agreed an immediate pause to extended operating hours for weekday evenings for both civil, family, tribunals and magistrates' courts. While this agreement is welcomed we have been unable to reach an agreement to pause the process in the crown court or current Saturday arrangements in the magistrates’ court and the employer has confirmed that the pilot in Liverpool will commence as planned on 17 August.
We will be entering into intensive negotiations next week with a series of meetings with employer representatives that will cover all current planning and proposals. Our aim it to ensure that the extended opening hours planning builds in safeguards that protect the health, safety and well-being of members. We want to ensure family-friendly working is enhanced and promoted, and we want to work with HMCTS to ensure that the commitment made by PCS members throughout the pandemic and, inevitably over the coming months, is properly acknowledged. We remain committed to ensuring that our members are protected from any negative impacts on their health, wellbeing and work life balance that long hours in difficult circumstances bring. We are fully aware that many members are already experiencing high levels of work-related stress and are at risk of burnout.
Employer representatives have confirmed that any revised agreement will be applicable across all jurisdictions and any retrospective changes in relation to the current arrangements and Liverpool Crown Court will be made.
Our advice to members remains that whilst negotiations are ongoing members should exercise caution when asked to volunteer or to express an interest in taking part in these recovery arrangements until further advice is available via PCS. A further briefing will be issued next week providing an update on the progress of talks and the PCS position on recovery work. We do accept that for some members the prospect of the overtime being offered is attractive but we all have a shared interest in ensuring that our working lives are safe, that we look after our health and wellbeing and that proposals are sustainable, reasonable, realistic and fair. We ask members to wait for a further update from the union on that basis.