What does “consultation” involve
What does being at risk of redundancy mean?
Will I be able to apply for a role on a different band?
What does redeployment involve?
What does an annualised hours contract involve?
I currently work part-time or term-time only. Will I need to move to annualised hours?
I’m already on an annualised hours contract, will anything change for me?
What changes are being made to job descriptions?
What is the union doing about the proposals?
What is voluntary severance?
When the employer proposes to change to your contract that may put jobs at risk, they want to make major changes to working hours, pay or roles, an employer is required to “consult” those affected and (where applicable) their representatives. Consultation means presenting the changes before they are final and asking for views and suggestions on how things could be done differently. In particular, where people are at risk of redundancy, an employer is required to look for all of the possible ways to avoid the loss of jobs, including possible alternative roles and ways of redeploying staff into different activity.
At the university any consultation due to a restructure of a service must always involve the trade unions who represent the views of staff. The consultation period must also last at least 60 days. During the consultation period the employer must answer questions, provide information and give serious consideration to suggestions and alternative proposals (from both individuals and the trade unions).
If an employer decides to change or reduce activity in a way that means they need fewer staff, they may decide to put certain staff “at risk” of redundancy, meaning the staff are in a “pool” who could potentially lose their jobs. In these situations there can be a single large group of staff in line for the same replacement roles, or there can be several groups of staff in line for different roles. In some cases there might not be any roles at all suggested as alternative employment for someone at risk of redundancy, but consultation still needs to take place on this and staff in this position are still entitled to redeployment.
Yes – particularly if there are more roles at that band than the number of staff at risk. We understand that the university’s initial proposal is for each band to form its own redundancy pool and to fill roles from the top of the structure – so graded roles will be filled first, followed by band 500 roles, then band 400 roles, then band 300 roles. If there are vacancies left on a higher band then these should be ringfenced for lower banded staff to apply for. Equally if there are likely to be gaps on a lower band then these should be ringfenced for staff who are at risk. For example – we’ve been told there are likely to be additional roles at band 200. These should be ringfenced in the first instance for at-risk higher banded staff.
Anyone at risk of losing their role is eligible to apply for roles as a “redeployee”. This means you should be given priority access to vacancies – if you are able to show you can meet the “essential criteria” of a role, you should be appointed to this job even if other candidates do better at interview. (This shows the university’s commitment to avoid redundancies) It is still really important to complete a full application for any role though. HR should support and explain how the process works to anyone who says they are interested in this. It’s important to keep good records of roles applied for and what happens in the interviews. Redeployees should ask for feedback following any unsuccessful process. If the decision seems unfair then you can appeal. Good records are vital at challenging the decision in any particular role, or in challenging any eventual redundancy.
Annualised hours means that your contract is to do a certain number of hours over the whole year. Of course those hours are broken up into weekly rotas and there are generally rules about the amount of notice required, as well as minimum shift length. There are already some suggested rules in the consultation paperwork and it’s possible that others could be secured via the consultation period.
Unions are worried about contracts like this because it takes away the certainty about your working pattern – working hours can fluctuate from week and rather than staff being able to say no to additional shifts outside of their normal working hours, managers have to approve particular time off.
Features of the contract include:
- It means that you may be on a rota that will change from week to week, or that you may be asked and expected to work in a different location.
- Flexibility in days is normally included in the rota, which generally include weekends, closed days and bank holidays
- Overtime generally only kicks in after you’ve exceeded (or are likely to exceed) your working hours for the year. Managers can ask you to work over your normal hours instead of offering overtime and then reduce your hours later in the year
- You can request not to work certain shifts in advance but your manager can say that you are needed and refuse because of business needs (similar to how annual leave shifts work at the moment).
In the past annualised hours were only used for full-time, all-year-round contracts but the proposal seeks to change this and move all support staff onto annualised hours. They are stating that they would honour existing arrangements to an extent – for example if you are term-time only you wouldn’t have to work in weeks you currently have off. However, staff will be subject to the same flexibility described above – so if you work 34 weeks of the year (for example) you will still be expected to vary your hours from week to week within that 34 weeks. Similarly part-time staff will merely have a lower number of annual working hours to complete, but will still have to vary their hours under the proposal. It is stated that existing flexible working requests will be honoured, but it needs to be clarified whether this is the “letter” of the request (for example if someone asked to have specific days off) or the established working pattern that person works at the moment. This is another one of the reasons that UNISON oppose the proposals.
The proposals also suggest that staff will need to work across different units much more regularly. We feel that this means that even if staff are already on an annualised hours contract they may face changes to working hours and duties. This needs to be made much clearer to staff.
The proposals hinge on staff moving to much more generic job descriptions so they can be moved into other roles much more readily. This means that, for example, at band 200 there is a single job description encompassing front of house work, food preparation, kitchen portering and food delivery. While there might be too many job descriptions across the department this does seem like a massive oversimplification of the different work staff do. Aside from this, there has been a commitment that new requirements included in the job descriptions (such as a requirement to drive) will not apply to existing staff.
UNISON’s role in this process will have several elements:
- Firstly we will be collating staff feedback, asking questions and making counter proposals during the consultation period. Make sure you let us know about your thoughts, concerns and questions and we can make sure this is listened to.
- Secondly we will support any union member individually with advice, support and representation.
- Finally – because we have made the University very aware in the past how seriously the branch would view any large expansion of annualised hours as well as the risk of job losses, we will be campaigning actively against the changes including publicity and social media.
The branch already decided to proceed to a “consultative ballot” about the University’s approach to change in other processes. A consultative ballot is a temperature check of member views and the willingness to proceed to a full, legal industrial action vote. Keep an eye out on your email or for a letter to participate in this – the more votes we get the more of a message we will send to the University that the proposals need to change.
During the consultation period staff can be offered a settlement that is higher than if they were made compulsorily redundant. You can choose to leave if this suits your personal circumstances or you are unhappy with the proposals and don’t have faith that they can be changed. The university offers it to reduce their legal liability and reduce the pool of people that require efforts to be made to avoid redundancy.
The application process can be shorter than that for the consultation period itself (in this particular restructure they have initially suggested the deadline will be the 28/04/21 – we have asked for this to be extended and are awaiting a response). In practice this means that staff may not have any idea as to how much their job is at risk. The unions are doing everything they can to ensure that the university will avoid compulsory redundancies and to campaign against the detrimental elements of the proposal. We would encourage anyone to talk to us before leaving via voluntary severance, particularly if you feel pressured into leaving by the nature of the proposals.