07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 10.12.20

Dear Member

We hope you are all keeping well. Today’s email is specific to Council member.


We know that significant proportion of members are currently working from home; but not everyone of course. This new way of working raises a number of questions now, and in the future.

The Financial Cost:

We want to spend a bit of time looking at the financial implications of working from home; perhaps more strongly felt in the winter months. Surveys have shown that domestic energy usage rose in the first lockdown in April and May by 15%. That is a significant increase but how many of us had the central heating or gas fire on all day in May. Longer hours of daylight will have had an impact as well, as there was less need to have the lights switched on. As a general estimate a full time worker will have their heating on for at least an extra 50 hours per week. That is a substantial increase.

This government may not be known for their generosity but even they recognise that there is a substantial additional cost to working from home. If you have to work from home the Government allows your employer to make a tax free payment of £26 / month. You can even claim more if you can provide evidence of additional costs. The Council has saved significant sums on their gas and utility bills during the pandemic as buildings have been closed, and their mileage costs haver dropped substantially. Yet too many of us are left to bear the financial hardship.

Yes, the Council have said that those who are struggling can come into the office. But there is significant pressure to work from home; with medical and government advice saying that we should be working from home wherever possible. Physical and mental wellbeing may be good reasons for not working from home, but bearing the cost of winter working should not be a reason – certainly not in the midst of a pandemic.

The Chancellor has recently proposed a public sector pay freeze; Wirral Council has quite rightly passed a motion condemning this attack on key workers who have maintained vitral services throughout the pandemic. They have called out the Government stating a pay freeze is a political choice, not an economic necessity. We agree. But making staff bear the additional cost of working from home is also a political choice.

We are writing to every Labour Councillor calling on them to do the right thing, and agree to the implementation of a Home Working Allowance

Homeworking Post Covid

Greater homeworking has been driven by the medical imperative to stay safe. However many employers, including Wirral Council, have been keen to explore the possibility of greater homeworking post Covid. Studies show there are clear direct benefits for an employer, for example saving on building costs, potential for increased productivity / unpaid hours worked; although there are also identified cons, in less creativity,  less opportunity for shared learning, lower quality output and lack of shared culture.

For our members there are many issues that need to be considered. Many, if not all of them can be both bad and good. We list a few below to be considered.

  • Work Life Balance
  • Autonomy
  • Mental Well Being
  • Physical Well Being
  • Learning and Development

We will be negotiating a  Homeworking Framework/ Procedure in the coming weeks to take account. In the run up to this we want to find out about the impact on members. We will therefore be sending out a brief homework survey; we would be grateful if you could take a few moments to complete it.

However we are clear that choice, your choice should be a significant consideration.

Flexi Time

We are receiving too many reports from members regarding an apparent restriction in the flexi time system. Whilst the changes appear to be in line with what is written in the policy, it certainly appears to be a change in application.

Issues that have been raised include:

  • Being told to work set hours e.g 9-5
  • Cannot work outside core hours (8.45 til  5.0) without prior authorisation of manager
  • Not be allowed to build up flexi
  • When Flexi has been amassed, not being able to take a day or ½ day flexi leave but told to take slightly longer lunches or start a bit later

The flexi policy does state “Employees wishing to work outside of the normal office hours (i.e. commence work early/late, leave work early/late or take an extended lunch break) must have prior agreement from their line manager” but on a strict interpretation it is not fit for purpose.

Flexi Time is a benefit, one that should be used to benefit the employee, whilst not impacting on the service. It gives a worker greater autonomy of their working lives  and indeed their personal lives. Of course the needs of the service need to be met, but within that there should be plenty of scope for flexibility. We also accept that members cannot ‘work’ late simply to accrue flexi, if there is no work to be done; but how many of us have cleared the “in tray” by the end of the day.

It does seem that the move to homeworking has seen flexi time, in its true sense, reined in; saying whether that is due to a lack of trust, or inability to over see, would only be idle speculation, but it is clear in many areas there has been a change.

We have asked for a formal review of the flexi system so it can be used as intended, as an employee benefit, but please let us know your experience

Council Budget

We are aware that many staff are being informed today of budget proposal that are due to go to Policy and Resources Committee next Friday. We know that this can be an anxious time for members. We do not know the full details as yet, but your union has made clear to Senior Officers that we will not accept any compulsory redundancies.

We will be holding an all members meeting next week when we all have fuller details, to discuss matters further – look out for further information

That’s all for today everyone, we hope you continue to find our regular email updates of use.

As always, please do pass our updates on to colleagues and encourage them to join Unison if they haven’t already. Here’s the link to join up! JOIN UNISON

We’ll be back in touch with further updates soon.

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team
Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk
Telephone: 07899713498 or 07899715085

Published on: December 11, 2020