UNISON Letter to TSA and HCA
Notting Hill are now imposing changes to terms and conditions of employment which will have a disproportionate impact on female staff with caring responsibilities (reducing carers’ leave and ending flexi-time). At UNISON’s insistence, Notting Hill carried out an Equality Impact Assessment of the proposed changes, and the assessment found that there would be a negative impact on female staff. However, Notting Hill said that they felt that this negative impact was “justifiable”. UNISON notes that the short inspection conducted by the Audit Commission in December 2009 recommended diversity training for the Management Committee (albeit in relation to a different context).
You will no doubt be aware that an important aspect of current Government Policy is the importance of practices that enable individuals to combine employment and caring responsibilities more effectively. Government consultation papers on Supporting Families and that on Meeting the Childcare Challenge, together with the National Carers Strategy place considerable emphasis on the role of employers in ensuring that parents and other carers can combine employment and effective childcare. Fairness at Work also places emphasis on encouraging employers to provide family-friendly employment practices to support the needs of employees with domestic caring responsibilities.
Research commissioned from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) looked into the business benefits of family-friendly employment practices in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The key business benefits of family-friendly employment practices identified in the study include:
Reduced casual sickness absence: most employers felt that sickness absence due to employees’ caring responsibilities had been reduced. This was reinforced by employees who felt more able to be honest about absence due to dependants’ illness.
Improved retention: each of the firms was able to identify individuals who had stayed with them longer because of their access to family-friendly provision. Most could estimate the number of employees who would have left had such provision not been available.
Improved productivity: many of the firms were convinced that employees working flexible hours were more productive than those working traditional hours.
Improved recruitment: the firms felt that offering family-friendly practices can attract potential recruits when seeking vacancies and making comparative judgements of job offers.
Improved morale and commitment: most firms believed that morale and commitment among employees with caring responsibilities was enhanced by family-friendly policies.
Notting Hill are also attempting to cut employment protection measures (salary protection and relocation allowances) in advance of likely restructures and office moves.
UNISON members are deeply disappointed by the aggressive approach the employer has taken. They are willing to accept some changes, but the stance taken by the employer takes no account of the genuine concerns of the workforce. Notting Hill have ignored a petition signed by 300 members of staff, they have refused to negotiate with UNISON, and they have refused to use ACAS. As a result, members are now being balloted on industrial action. If the organisation were prepared to talk to UNISON, it would be very possible to reach an agreement.
It cannot be stressed enough that Notting Hill are not short of money. They have reserves of £188 million, and in 2008/09 made an operating surplus of £19.8m. In the same year, the carers leave that they are cutting cost them only £30,000. Given these figures, we feel that the cuts represent a serious misuse of resources.
Notting Hill have made it clear that they wish to improve service delivery. UNISON members are entirely in agreement with this, and across the housing association sector we seek to work with employers to achieve this. A key part of improving the quality of service delivery is treating the workforce with decency and respect. Notting Hill apparently think they can achieve improved delivery of services by alienating the workers who will be delivering those services.