ANNUALISED HOURS WORKING (AHW) AHA Opt-in (G3-2 AAA position)

Background

Against a background of widespread intimidation and bullying (described by one senior manager at the time as ‘a campaign’), AHW was introduced into the Home Office on 1 April 2011.

 In January this year, the Department approached the unions with a view to re-opening discussions on AHW based upon the notion that AHA (Annualised Hours Allowance) should be the single shift working allowance paid to those members working unsocial hours. 

The Department claimed that the drivers for re-visiting this issue were: 

  • In the current (difficult) financial climate, ‘efficiencies’ had to be made;
  • Staff felt that it was divisive to have different sets of terms and conditions;
  • Managers were finding it difficult to manage three sets of terms and conditions. 

HO/MB/19/13 advised members of the union’s agreement to engage with management. 

Initial discussions

When discussions began in early March it was clear that the focus of the Department’s venom was going to be upon those members in receipt of SDA (Shift Disturbance Allowance), which the Department made abundantly clear it was seeking to remove. More details about the ‘SDA position can be found in HO/MB/122/13. 

As far as G3-2 AAA (Annual Attendance Allowance) is concerned, the Department’s opening position was, ‘We will review the long term future of AAA in due course. In the short term we will ensure that AAA allowances are fully justified, and will review the application of allowances in line with the G3-2 Guidance.’ 

During the initial discussions, the unions were advised of the Department’s intention for a further ‘opt-in’ opportunity. PCS argued that any incentive had to at least match that offered in 2011, i.e. £3,000 and 2 years pay protection. However, whilst we were able to secure an increase in the value of the buy-out by 37.5% to £2,750, we were unable to move the employer on the period of pay protection being offered, resulting in the final opt-in offer being £2,750 and one year’s pay protection. 

Opt-in offer

The Department’s timetable for the AHA opt-in exercise was subjected to ‘slippage’ due to negotiations over the Home Office pay restructuring proposals, but with these negotiations drawing to a close, the Department announced its intentions for a further AHA opt-in exercise to all staff on 18 November. 

The details of the opt-in offer are as follows: 

  1. 1.    All eligible staff, whether full or part time, will be offered a one off incentive payment of £2750 plus a year’s pay protection. The payment will be non consolidated and non pensionable and will be paid at the end of March 2014. AHA agreements and payments will apply from April 2014.    
  2. 2.    Pay protection will be from April 2014. It will continue until March 2015 and will be pro-rated for anyone opting in during 2014/15.
  3. 3.    SDA staff will be entitled to pay protection if their current SDA and Holiday pay is higher than their new Flexibility and Rostered Shift Allowance percentage.
  4. 4.    AAA staff will be entitled to pay protection if their current Flexibility and SDA is higher than their new Flexibility and Rostered Shift Allowance percentage.
  5. All staff who are on SDA or AAA in the Home Office will be in scope. (Note: Staff in receipt of ACIO or Maritime allowance are not in scope.)

 

  1. 6.    The opt in window will open on 9 December and close on 19 January. The terms of the 2011 opt in cease to apply on 9 December.  
  2. There will be a simple opt in facility with no requirement to opt out. Staff will have access to the opt in via a link on Adelphi. There will be no opportunity to opt out once opted in and no cooling off period. Staff will be clearly informed that opting in constitutes a binding and permanent change to their terms and conditions.  
  3. 8.    Staff on long term absence, for example sick absence or career breaks, will be eligible to opt in on return in the same way as under the original offer.

 Staff who opt in and transfer to a non-AHA role or move on promotion before 1 April will not receive the incentive package. 

  1. Staff who opt in and move on a level transfer to an AHA role and remain in post on 1 April 2014 will receive the incentive package. 
  2. Staff who opt in, and leave on or before 31st March 2014 as a result of retirement, resignation or dismissal will not receive the incentive package.   

Calculating pay protection

 Staff on former HMRC AAA will receive up to 1 year pay protection where:

  • flexibility and SDA as at 31/03/14 is higher than
  • new Flexibility and Rostered Shift Allowance

 This will be calculated as follows: 

Current Flexibility percentage x Current basic Salary = A
Current SDA percentage x Current basic Salary = B
New Flexibility percentage x Current basic Salary = C
New RSA percentage x Current basic Salary = D
(A+B) – (C+D) = Amount protected for 1 year

 

The following rules also apply:

  • Pay protection is only payable up to 31/03/15.
  • Pay protection is calculated using basic salary only
  • Where the new Flexibility rate is 2%:
    • Any difference in flexibility up to 5% (a maximum of 3%) and SDA is pensionable
    • Any difference in flexibility above 5% will be non-pensionable
  • Where the new flexibility rate is 5% or higher:
    • Any difference in SDA is pensionable
    • Any difference in flexibility is non-pensionable.

 

Pay Protection Rules for Opt-in 

Revalorising Pay Protection

Pay protection will not be revalorised during the pay protection period.

Changes to AHA rates

Pay protection will not be revalorised following changes to AHA rates. Where appropriate, Period of Adjustment rules will apply.

Annual Pay increases

Pay protection will not be eroded by annual increases to salary.

Promotion

If an individual is promoted to an AHA role, pay protection will be eroded by any salary increase.

If an individual is promoted to a non-AHA role, pay protection will cease. Mark time rules may apply for the rostered shift allowance element only.

Voluntary Level

If an individual moves on level transfer pay protection will cease.

Managed Moves and moves out of the Redeployment Pool

If an individual is moved to an AHA role, pay protection should be retained. POA rules may also apply.

If an individual is moved to a non-AHA role, mark time may apply for the Rostered Shift Allowance. Pay protection will be retained and period of adjustment rules will apply.

Detached Duty

Pay protection will not be revalorised on detached duty. 

Returning from overseas postings

Although staff may be entitled to opt in on their return from an overseas posting, any entitlement to pay protection will cease on 31/03/15. Any staff returning after this date may be able to claim the incentive payment, however they will have no entitlement to pay protection.

Sick Absence

Pay protection will continue for short periods of sick absence. The 60 day rule applies to pay protection. Regardless of the length of absence, any entitlement to pay protection will cease on 31/03/15.

Special Leave /Career Break

Special Leave without pay/Career Break

Pay protection will cease as with all other pay. Regardless of the length of absence, any entitlement to pay protection will cease on 31/03/15.

Special Leave with Pay

Pay protection will continue for short periods of special leave with pay.

Maternity/Adoption/Paternity Leave

Pay protection will continue during Maternity, Adoption or Paternity Leave in accordance with current policy. Regardless of the length of absence, any entitlement to pay protection will cease on 31/03/15.

Temporary Cover Allowance

Pay protection will not be eroded for any period of TCA.

Where an individual moves to a role on TCA that attracts AHW, they will receive the higher of:

  • the rate of AHA in their substantive post; or
  • the rate of AHA the temporary post attracts

Pay protection will not be revalorised. 

AHA policy changes

G3-2 AAA is a contractual term and condition for legacy Customs members, who continue to be covered by COSOP following the MOG (Machinery Of Government) transfer to the Home Office on 5 August 2009. Likewise, the AHA policy is contractual and changes can only be made with the agreement of the unions. 

During the original AHA policy negotiations, management could not be persuaded to move from their position that credit for sickness absence should be 8.2 hours (London) or 8.4 hours (National), on the basis that they did not wish to encourage members to take sick leave. PCS argued this was an unreasonable position to take and therefore needed little persuasion to agree management’s recent proposal that, ‘the actual shift length for a period of sick absence is recorded as a credit against target hours on TAMS.’ 

The Department’s communications also make reference to the introduction of ‘a zero flex change option’. PCS has made its position very clear, both informally and formally that the union would be opposed to such a policy change, although for the moment the Department seem reluctant to accept our position. 

PCS approach

The union cannot give financial advice to members and this was one of the main reasons why it did not offer a recommendation in the last opt-in exercise; members needed to consider their own personal circumstances before reaching a final decision.  

In a similar approach to the one previously adopted, PCS will again not be making a formal recommendation. Following the 2010/11 exercise, there was some criticism from a minority of members who felt that the union should have provided a clearer steer. The fact that PCS did not give a positive recommendation and provided nearly eight pages of analysis coupled with the statement, ‘Legacy Customs negotiators are of the view that whilst much progress has been made in the negotiations, the final product still falls a long way short of G3-2’ was not viewed (by some) as a sufficiently clear statement of intent. 

Factors to be considered

Whilst maintaining the position of not providing a formal recommendation, members may wish to take note of some of the following factors, in order to assist them with their final decision: 

  • AHA is the Department’s preferred method of payment for unsocial hours working;
  • G3-2 is contractual and is protected by COSOP;
  • COSOP (and by definition G3-2) no longer applies if a member accepts a sideways transfer or a promotion, i.e. a member must remain in the same post as he/she was in at time of transfer to the Home Office (5 August 2009);
  • Opting-in to AHA will only impact upon COSOP protection for attendance payment related T&C’s, i.e. all other COSOP protected T&C’s remain unaffected;
  • Members approaching retirement, or with plans to leave the Department may view the ‘bribe’ being offered as a financial benefit;
  • The ‘bribe’ is subject to tax and National Insurance deductions.
  • G3-2 provides a framework for remunerating unsocial/weekend attendance and flexibility; it does not guarantee THP (Take Home Pay). Perhaps not surprisingly, Border Force North management has already announced a 1% reduction in the Public Holiday building block for 2014/15, coupled with restrictions in flexibility payments. The contra to this is that members on AAA may be required to work less premium hours/be less flexible, in order to receive the same money as colleagues in receipt of AHA;
  • Management’s ability to ‘penalise’ members in receipt of AAA will be very much influenced by the workforce numbers in a particular location being in receipt of AAA, compared to AHA. A high percentage of AAA workers will make it more difficult for sanctions to be successfully applied, than areas where the majority of the workforce is in receipt of AHA. This is a similar situation to that described as applying to members in receipt of SDA. 

Way Forward

The opt-in window commences on the 9 December and closes on 19 January 2014. During that period members should be not be subject to any bullying or intimidation from ‘over enthusiastic managers’, keen to get (all) their staff signed up to AHA. 

At the meeting of the DWC (Departmental Whitley Council) held on 14 November, the Permanent Secretary made it very clear that there was no place for bullying and intimidation in the Home Office. Accordingly, if members do experience undue pressure to sign up, they should advise their local PCS rep immediately and take action in accordance with the Home Office grievance resolution policy: 

http://horizon.gws.gsi.gov.uk/portal/site/horizon-intranet/menuitem.9a6ef755dd73104a43757f10466b8a0c/?vgnextoid=92c947d1491e3210VgnVCM2000003cb1a8c0RCRD 

In order to provide members with further information to assist with their decision over whether to opt-in or remain on G3-2 AAA, an analysis has been undertaken, which seeks to compare the Department’s AHA proposals with those contained within G3-2. Details of this analysis can be found in the attachment to this Members’ Briefing. 

If having read through the information provided, members have questions, or issues of concern, it would be helpful if they were raised through local PCS Branch Officials in the first instance.

 

Nigel Buller

Deputy Group President

 

Michael Thompson

Assistant Group Secretary

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