COVID 19 – UPDATE

Dear Colleague

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our members who have worked hard to provide essential services to our community during this pandemic. It is without a doubt that your heroic response has saved many lives and protected you, your family and colleagues.

I would also like to acknowledge all those who have worked hard during June to prepare for the safe return of schools. The announcement last week by the Deputy First Minister may have caused some concern, however we await the scientific and clinical advice on the current virus spread/containment and as a consequence the new guidance to facilitate that advice.

Only when it is considered safe will a final decision be taken on whether or not schools can return with more capacity in August 2020.

Early Years will be commencing mid-July and UNISON are working with our employers and to ensure that all Health & Safety concerns are addressed. Any member requiring assistance should contact the branch office.

UNISON is working with other trade unions, COSLA and the Scottish Government and I will keep members up to date with any developments throughout the summer.

UNDERLYING HEALTH & AT RISK GROUP

New guidance was issued on or around the 18th June 2020 – this is still being reviewed and it is expected that clarification will be issued next week by Health Protection Scotland. When this is received we will have discussions with our employers on how best to proceed.

In the meantime, nothing has changed and the position you were in prior to 23rd March remains the same.

UNISON – CALLS FOR NATIONAL CARE SERVICE

This pandemic has raised a number of issues predominately with third and private social care service delivery. It is clear that the “market” has failed to deliver a safe place for both staff and residents – putting profits first. UNISON has called for a new National Care Service and review – please see link: https://www.unison-scotland.org/coronavirus-care-after-covid-19/

HOMEWORKING

It is recognised that our members have responded significantly in agreeing to work from home during these challenging times and making do with what facilities u have – UNISON will engage with our employers to discuss the SJC Employers guidance (see attached) and how we can implement the recommendation given that the current arrangements may be with us for some time.

**PLEASE NOTE – UNISON did not agree with the entirely of this guidance as the appendix only refers to you claiming the allowance through taxation – it is totally unacceptable for employers to ask staff to go through this complex process for a significantly smaller amount. ***

During this pandemic COSLA advises that there have been savings due to homeworking.

We will pursue locally the tax-free payment to be applied and retrospectively for those affected by this.

Key points are:

  • The checklist is not intended to be used to consider more permanent flexible working agreements which feature home working.  Those should be the subject of consultation/negotiation locally through your usual engagement structures.
  • Councils should consult staff about their experiences, concerns, expectations and equipment needs of homeworking.
  • Councils should take into consideration the additional constraints and demands some employees may be experiencing as a result of homeworking when discussing working hours/flexibility etc.
  • Councils should ensure support for managers in how to manage their teams remotely, ensuring there is regular communication to combat isolation and feedback on any issues.
  • DSE assessments, managing screen time and proper breaks should be reviewed and discussed and employees directed to wellbeing initiatives where those would be helpful.
  • There should be clarity re how employees claim back expenses associated with homeworking.
  • The checklist includes advice about how a worker can claim income tax relief related to homeworking expenses not covered by the employer. Note however if the employee claims this from the HMRC it requires them to complete a self-assessment.  This may put them off doing so.  The employer could choose to pay this to the employee directly.  If an employer pays the costs of additional household expenses for an employee who works from home, they do not have to report anything to HMRC if ALL the following apply:
    • The employee needs to work from home, either because equipment they need is not available at the workplace, or their work means they have to live too far away from the workplace to travel there every day
    • The amount the employer gives them is not more than their additional household expenses.
    • The amount the employer gives them is not more than the current weekly limit (2020-2021 onwards – £6.00 per week or £26.00 per month for employees paid monthly.

SOCIAL CARE STAFF – EXPENSES PAYMENT

UNISON is aware that our social care staff have incurred additional costs in carrying out their duties such as extra laundry and lack of normal break/food provision being available.
We will soon embark on a discussion with the HSCP to seek recompense and ask that it be retrospectively applied.

Can I take this opportunity once again to thank all our members and please continue to stay safe, fit and healthy.

Thanks

Mark Ferguson
Branch Secretary

 

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