I wanted to provide you with a brief update on a number of matters Departmental Trade Union Side are working on at the moment.

Office Risk Assessments: Tranche 2 of the risk assessments of buildings is taking place this week and we are looking at tranche 3 for next week. I wanted to thank all those reps and seconded officers who have stepped up to ensure that all workers are as safe as they can be if they are required to attend work. Once assessments are complete, a copy of the agreed risk assessment should be shared wit hall staff. We have also reinforced our position that members are safer when they work from home and no staff member should be asked to attend the office if they have the IT and can complete their duties at home. We accept this is not possible for everyone to work from home but if you can, you should.

Screens: Safety screens are being installed in to some offices in preparation for offices re-opening. The decision about how and when offices re-open lies with the Minister and we have written asking to engage with the Minister before this decision is made. Each office will be further risk assessed when a decision is made by the Minister to open the offices to ensure they are safe for staff and the public.

Conditionality: The Secretary of State for Work & Pensions in England has instructed DWP to re-instate conditionality for benefit claimants on 01 July. This does not apply to Northern Ireland and so we have written to the Minister setting out our thoughts on any decision to re-instate conditionality for claimants as around 90% of this work was previously done face-to-face. We will also be working with management on this.

Flexi Credit: Following a decision in DWP, we wrote to management asking that those staff attending the office be credited with an additional one hour flexi credit each week to acknowledge the fact that some staff were being asked to attend the office when others were not. We have just received a disappointing response to this merger request confirming that this flexi credit will not be given.

Childcare: we continue to raise concerns about the impact of a lack of childcare provision on members with children, especially young children. While not perfect, we have asked that those staff with childcare pressures should be prioritised in the allocation of Mini-PCs to allow them to work from home. If any member is experiencing difficulties with attending the office due to a lack of childcare, would benefit from a Mini-PC to allow home-working or has problems completing work due to looking after children at home, please speak to your manager about this in the first instance. Managers have been instructed to be sympathetic and provide support where possible. If you cannot get a solution with your manager, please raise any concerns with you local TUS rep or seconded officer.

Dooley Harte
Assistant Secretary