0151 666 3040 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 30.07.20

Dear Member

Hello again! We hope you’re having a good week so far, we can’t believe it’s Thursday already! Today’s email is mainly focused on Corona-virus specifically in relation to the impact on families.

Extra help for new mums returning to work at Wirral Council

You may recall in one of our earlier emails we highlighted that we were seeking amendments to the maternity policies of organisations to reflect the additional challenges facing new parents during this pandemic. We are pleased today to be able to announce that we have concluded successful discussions with Wirral Council; discussions that were positive on both sides and ultimately successful in bringing about improvements to the maternity policy. It is Unison that continues to proactively seek improvements for our members, even during these challenging times. Whilst this particular improvement may only benefit a limited number of our members, it is just one example of a number of small successes we continue to have. However small the numbers, we’re delighted for all of the mums and dads that this significant change will benefit, please see below a joint press release issued today by Wirral Unison and Wirral Council.

"New mums returning from maternity leave to work at the local authority will get additional time to spend with their babies.
The agreement between Wirral Council and the union Unison follows the months of restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The local authority already has a range of flexible working arrangements in place to support employees with childcare responsibilities.   
Now to support this further, all those returning from Maternity Leave between 1 April 2020 and 31 December 2020 will be able to apply for up to 10 days special leave in the 12 months following their return, and pro-rata for part time employees. 
Lois Founds, Deputy Branch Secretary, Wirral Unison, said: “Having supported campaigns to improve maternity leave provision and raising this with the council early on in this pandemic, Wirral Unison are delighted that Wirral Council have taken this step.
“This change will have a really positive impact for those parents who have missed out on valuable opportunities with their new babies during the months that their maternity leave was impacted by lockdown restrictions. Having championed this cause, the progressive approach of the council is really welcome.”
While all leave requests are always subject to needs of the service, managers will be required to be as flexible as possible in accommodating requests.
Cabinet member for finance and resources, Cllr Janette Williamson, said: “We are really aware  of the potential impact of lockdown on employees on maternity leave, the lack of access to structured play for young children and to those community and social groups which can be so beneficial for the development of new babies. 
“These groups can also bring considerable benefits and support networks for new mums, and with schools closed those with older children may have missed out on the dedicated time with their new baby that maternity leave is intended for. Mums returning to work may not get these opportunities back and we want to offer them as much support as we can.
“For others the usual opportunities to settle babies into nursery or other child care provision will have been limited due to the prolonged closure of many child care settings and I hope this additional time will be helpful for those returning to work at the council.”

The provisions also apply to employees who return from Shared Parental Leave and Adoption Leave "

Family Friendly Working

For many working people, family comes before everything else. And in recent years, the law has become more sensitive to the needs of parents and carers. But juggling work and family is still a struggle for working mums and dads. The  current pandemic has only highlighted the problems we can face in trying to achieve a work life balance.

If you have caring responsibilities- whether for children, elderly or disabled relatives, or other dependents- you have legal rights designed to help you balance the different parts of your life. Most mums and dads have a statutory right to take paid time off around their baby’s birth. And many employers will have their own maternity and paternity leave policies that go beyond the legal minimum. In addition, all employees have the right to request flexible working, once they have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks; although the employer can refuse the request in certain circumstances. This can help parents and other carers to manage their different responsibilities.

And you should never be discriminated against or harassed because of pregnancy or maternity, or because you care for a disabled person. You also have specific rights if you work part-time, say while your children are school-age. Anyone who works less than full-time hours is a part-time worker, so this includes, for example, anyone on a zero hours contract.

Please see the following links for guidance on your rights in specific areas. However each case is different, and your employer may offer more than the bare minimum, so please speak to Unison for advice.


Tackling Food Inequality

You may recall the campaign highlighted by footballer Marcus Rashford to continue free school meals during the school summer holidays. This campaign forced the government into one of their increasingly frequent U-turns, a move that will have been welcomed by many families during this crisis. Covid- 19 has highlighted many of the problems within society that Unions and others have been talking about for some time. A new government commissioned report released this week has shone the spotlight on the stark economic, health and nutritional inequalities that impact upon many of our children.

The report has proposed three “quick and relatively straightforward steps” to take to tackle the nutritional crisis facing the poorest children, noting that the food budget is often the first thing cut by hard-up families.
They are:

  • An expansion of free school meals to 1.5 million more 7 to 16-year-olds in households claiming universal credit benefit. This is estimated to cost an extra £670m a year. Only 1% of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards of a school meal, according to the report.
  • A nationwide £200m expansion of holiday hunger schemes currently state-funded in 16 local council areas and reaching 50,000 children. Around 3 million children are at risk of hunger during the school holidays, the report says.
  • An expansion of the Healthy Start fresh fruit, milk and vegetables voucher scheme for pregnant mothers, increasing its value and encouraging supermarkets to supplement the voucher with free fresh produce.

Wirral Unison supports these proposals and would urge their immediate implementation. However, there are many other issues that also need attention, including housing, school funding and low pay. Wirral Unison recognises that amidst the anxiety and the tragic loss of life that this pandemic has brought, it has helped us to focus on what is really important for our society. We will, as a union continue of course to press for improvements within our workplaces and our job roles but we will not turn away from the social issues that affect us all and will continue to campaign for a more equal society.

We do hope you enjoy your day and we will be back in touch on Friday with a further update, until then….

In solidarity!

Lois and Dave

Branch Office: 0151 666 3040
Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Published on: July 30, 2020