The consultation on a new model of working for Livewell employees has now finished. Livewell have circulated information to staff about how they are now implementing hybrid working. UNISON have been leading on this from staff-side, and we are really pleased that workers’ concerns have been listened to, and the proposals have significantly altered since the beginning of the process back in July.
In summary, the proposal have gone from the position of “home-working by default” for a large proportion of staff, to the current position which enables flexible / home working arrangements to be requested by staff and facilitated by the employer wherever possible. i.e. from compulsory permanent changes to workers’ bases, to an entirely voluntary arrangement. UNISON has always maintained that flexible / home working arrangements can be very positive from the point of view of employees and operationally when it fully takes into account the needs and preferences of the individual and the team or service in which they work. There has been many questions from members about the end of hybrid consultation and the paperwork which you have been asked to complete by LSW . The forms sent out we believe relate to welfare and DSE requirements so that LSW can make sure you are safe whilst working from home during the covid pandemic. This paperwork will not constitute a contractual change and if you want to return to work back in an office environment once it is safe to do so then you would be able to do so
This has happened thanks to the impressive feedback and engagement of members in this process, and our brilliant workplace representatives – notably Liz Cheeseright and Rebecca Jones ably assisted by the small band of UNISON reps who often work behind the scenes for the benefit of members. We especially appreciate everyone’s detailed and informative responses to our employee survey on hybrid working.
This is a real success, and demonstrates the value of being in a union, and having such strong member density in Livewell. Thank you!
Of course, we are still in the middle of the pandemic, and working from home is still required for many staff to reduce the spread of infection – but this is a separate temporary measure agreed with staff unions. By listening to our views, we have ensured that this temporary measure does not ‘drift’ into acceptance of what could have been involuntary, permanent changes to employees’ terms and conditions.
We recognise that there are still some loose ends and issues that members would like resolved. Particularly around how employees are reimbursed or compensated for additional expenses incurred from working from home. The current position is that Livewell will reimburse for costs that exceed any savings that the employee has whilst being required to work from home during the pandemic.
UNISON’s position is that the current arrangements are inadequate, and there should be a more straightforward process that ensures no worker suffers financial detriment. We have suggested that LSW adopt the HMRC rates for reimbursement which suggest that “Employers can pay you £6 a week extra tax-free” . This is different from the £6 that you can claim from HMRC directly as in reality the tax relief works out as 24p a day. UNISONs suggestion has so far been rejected but we will keep the pressure on LSW as we are aware some NHS trusts regionally have agreed to pay the £6 in line with the HMRC recommendations We will continue to engage with the employer, and welcome members’ views and feedback on how this can be made fairer.
Key themes from the feedback:
Patient safety concerns. Lack of contact time with patients and not being able to pick up on non-verbal cues leading to missing things. Confidentiality issues of working from home/not having a private space to talk.
IT resources, equipment (office chairs, printer, desk space, laptops etc.) and working from home arrangements, being able to separate the home and the office, increased cost of working from home WIFI, heating etc. The idea that staff will be saving on fuel is not enough to compensate for the other costs. Staff isolation will be to the detriment to mental health of staff.
Staff isolation and not being able to talk through things with colleagues and managers, not having the support of a team. No reflective conversations with other members of staff to evaluate work. No physical team support, inexperienced or newly qualified staff may struggle in their development and on the job experience.
Lack of communication causing anxiety amongst staff for specific departments. Feeling that it cannot be a one size fits all approach and that line managers are not informed well enough to communicate effectively with staff about proposals. Questions over whether these proposals are a choice for staff or will be compulsory. Feeling that proposals are rushed.
Some staff believe working from home is a positive move and appreciate the impact it is having on their work life balance, less interruptions and reduced travel time. Most of these realise that although it suits them it may not work for other