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Talking Points

Some of the topics discussed among members recently have covered a number of issues. Some have been more widely discussed, others less so. An example is the issue of pay when undertaking TDA. Initially, those coming over from HMRC were told an increased payment would only occur when you had been TDA’d for a full five days.

Perhaps we should have known better than to trust that was indeed the case, and what staff were being told was supported by guidance. But alas! No! Guidance apparently makes it clear the rate can only be paid for a minimum half a day! It doesn’t require a minimum of 5 days to qualify for a payment.  So if you only undertake a few hours, you will get paid for half a day! There is a calculator in the guidance to help work out what you should be paid.

It would be good to hear when those previously underpaid hours will now be paid back! Speak to your Team Leader in the first instance, for those still owed, and let us know how you get on.

The most common topic currently is the new scheduled telephony for CM’s. In a recent message to staff, it seems the aim of local management is to “maintain the principle of no more than 30% where scheduled”.

Having already seen the issue of lack of understanding on assumed consent cause repeated raising of the matter with national management, you might expect some serious thought go in to making sure any message to staff was reasonably accurate to avoid a repeat. There can only be so many times those looking down will want to hear there’s another issue with interpretation within St Austell!

You see, the maximum time staff are to spend on telephone duties is 7.5 hours. Now, unless my calculator is solar and I’m doing this in the dark, for a full time member of staff, that equates to less than 20.5% of their week. Where does maintaining 30% come in to it? Is this some sort of local Inflation? A twisted version of austerity? (Shame it doesn’t apply to wages! Or can it?)

Emails have started cropping up asking people to volunteer to cover times others have been scheduled to be on the ‘phone, but can’t do so. This has raised some questions.

Why are people who are being reported as too ill to be able to take calls themselves having to find volunteers? Why are staff being allowed to leave the site to work elsewhere if they weren’t able to give the required 2 week notice period?

As the process has been described, staff should only work a maximum of 7.5 hours. If they are willing to volunteer to cover on a different day, is this being taken as offering to exceed the 7.5 hour limit? It doesn’t appear this has been made clear, but should be, before staff offer to cover someone’s Thursday scheduled slot for example, believing it will give them a clear Friday without calls, only to be disappointed.

And lets not forget about Assumed Consent in all of this. It was stated in one span at least that the schedules would only be set on the same end of the day as the fixed point. Looking at the first schedules released, that doesn’t appear to be the case. There seems to be an expectation CM’s will need to get cover for any slot that falls within a time they would normally be able to take Assumed Consent leave. As we’ve already been over the issue of taking Assumed Consent when staff were scheduled for call times, and it was clarified it wasn’t a reason to stop them doing so, why do management locally think anything has changed? Some say, cynically perhaps, it’s just another attempt to take Assumed Consent away locally. What would stop the scheduling being deliberately targeted at the non-fixed end of the day to guarantee maximum cover? I don’t know, but perhaps it’s another case of interpretation.

Hopefully there will be clarification sooner rather than later.

I heard a member of staff in VOA was celebrating a pay rise recently. As an AA grade member of staff, you can understand their joy. I was pleased to think at least HMRC were willingly doing something good for the lowest grade. Nah, I got that wrong. Appears it was a forced action due to minimum wage going up!

An interesting comment heard recently from a DWP TL discussing the difference they’ve observed concerning how managers from DWP and their colleagues with a HMRC background worked. They felt managers from HMRC displayed a more co-operative approach with each other, supporting a real investment in sharing best practice, while it seemed a more competitive environment was the norm between managers from a DWP background.

The amount of ad hoc telephony on UC appears to be growing, and members are concerned about the amount of extra time this could mean away from Case Management. To remind members, the agreement was for a MAX of 7.5 hours per week. If management want to change from an advance published schedule to an an ad hoc schedule instead, that's fine. You just need to keep tabs on how much you do as you go and let them know when you have reached 7.5, so no longer available for telephony duties. This would assist the DMO's when organising cover appropriately.