Summary: PCS have received proposals that the Border Force Senior Management Team intend to impose a complete leave ban, followed by a restricted period to cover the period when the UK leaves EU.
Members will no doubt be aware that PCS have received an in confidence proposal that Border Force had the intention to implement the following arrangements for Annual Leave prior to and during the EU Exit period. All elements are intended to apply to all Border Staff regardless of role or grade:
• An annual leave freeze from 25th March 2019 to 14th April 2019 (during
which leave will be permitted only in exceptional circumstances).
• Limiting annual leave quotas for the remainder of April and through to
the 12th of May 2019 to 10% of actual staff numbers.
This proposal was originally leaked to the press and published in early August, and further discussed in the media.
PCS replied to the proposal stating that “PCS cannot accept the proposal of a leave ban from the 25th of March to the 14th of April 2019 and subsequent restrictions. We also note that the dates of both the leave ban and restricted period are longer than those initially discussed. PCS believe that the impact on members particularly as it covers significant parts of the school Easter Holiday is disproportionate. We have continually been told that EU exit will have limited impact on the Border, this is now obviously not the case.” It is clear that this has brought to the forefront the lack of substantive staffing in Border Force to conduct “Business as usual”
PCS also made clear to Border Force that we believed that when it came to finding childcare, whatever notice is given, that there will be a large number of members unable to make alternative arrangements particularly in the holiday period without significant cost, should they be able to find assistance. The leave ban will also not impact equally on all grades, front line officers do not have the ability to work from home. Ironically, this leave ban also covers the period during which MP’s will be on Easter recess and enjoying their time away from Parliament.
PCS pointed out that this additional restriction, along with the usual summer restrictions would not give members opportunity to take any leave until next autumn and that this was wholly unacceptable.
Border Force stated in their proposal that numerous alternativeoptions were considered, but that it was not believed that they provide sufficient levels of assured resourcing.
However, the document does not explain why.
PCS believe that the following factors could all impact significantly on the levels of restriction being discussed.
In relation to special leave, under the proposed process, PCS highlighted that we have seen several examples of inconsistent interpretation of domestic emergencies so clarity would be appreciated.
PCS also noted that leave will be granted following maternity leave and have achieved significant amendment to include paternity leave.
PCS were informed that only holidays booked, paid for and approved prior to the leave ban being mooted in the press will be authorised. PCS informed Border Force that we cannot accept this and that the press should never make policy. However, PCS have now achieved a concession that this has now moved from the date of publication in the press to a date when “The leave levels that can be accommodated” have been reached. Currently there is no leave ban and if individuals are unable to get summer leave, why should they not book an Easter break?
PCS asked what did Border Force intend to do for those who have booked a break, but booked leave after the level which can be accommodated has been reached. Is the intention to monitor the situation? At what point will they be instructed to cancel holidays? Only to work and potentially find all passport control points fully staffed.
PCS were able to gain some movement on these proposals such as the adjustment of the implementation date, it was also acceptedby Border Force that leave appeals should be heard at local management levels.
PCS will continue to engage to fight for members’ right to take leave for caring responsibilities and rest and recuperation over what will undoubtedly be a challenging period, and will update should further information become available.
Kevin Mills, Assistant Group Secretary