Timewise Councils

Timewise Councils

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Emma Stewart MBE, Timewise Joint CEO, talks exclusively about why flexible hiring is shaping the future of the workplace.

We are going through a radical period of change in the workplace. People want a better work-life balance and employers are responding to this. The Government has recognised this with the introduction of flexible working and shared parental leave. The public has also responded with 14.1 million workers now looking for some form of flexibility in their next role.

To push this point further, our Timewise Flexible Jobs Index highlighted that just 6.2% of quality jobs are advertised as open to flexibility at the point of hire. Nowhere is this more important than within local Government, where unprecedented pressure on budgets and services require innovative approaches to job design through both recruitment, workforce planning and commissioning.

Many councils are already undertaking agile programmes, investing in technology and hot-desking to drive a more flexible approach to managing people and services. But, this is only part of the story… Whilst 82% of managers believe flexible working benefits their business, driving a culture where people are empowered to make their own decisions about where, when and how they work, is much harder.

It means a huge shift in approaches to working for both employer and employee alike. To support you through this, we have developed the Timewise Council programme. To help local authorities develop and implement real culture change around flexible working and hiring.

Councils who undertake the programme are supported by us to re-think:

  • How to position flexible working in order to maximise performance for their organisation, managers and people
  • How recruitment processes can offer more flexible roles and build a more engaged workforce.

The Timewise Council also helps Local Authorities reduce costs when working with external suppliers, especially agencies and social care job design. Councils who lead on flexible hiring have a real opportunity to share their learnings and educate local employers on the benefits it can bring their business, as they have the potential to unlock more, quality, flexible jobs within the local community. This is particularly pertinent for people with family and caring commitments, who are unable to work within a 9-5 or full-time framework.

So why do local authorities decide to become Timewise Councils? 

Embracing flexible working and hiring delivers clear returns for organisations and individuals. Recent research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that flexible working could, potentially, add around £11.5 billion to the UK economy.

Larger corporates who have been working with Timewise to implement and manage workplace flexibility, have seen an estimated £15M in financial benefits per annum – through improved productivity, reduced travel and real estate costs. Not to mention improved staff attraction and retention. Flexible working can save organisations money, not add to costs.

A case in point. Timewise Councils seeing business benefit

The London Borough of Camden became the first Timewise Council in 2014 and now encourages flexible working requests as part of all job adverts. Their strategy to support flexible and part-time working is attracting applications from a wider range of quality applicants. Between November 2014 and January 2015, 20% of new starters joined Camden council with a flexible working arrangement in place. Lambeth has become London’s second Timewise Council, and are also incorporating smarter approaches to job design, as well as promoting already existing flexibility in order to both attract a more diverse, skilled talent pool of candidates, and realise efficiencies in how jobs are done.

The full list of Councils who have now achieved Timewise Council status includes: Camden, Lambeth, Islington, Stoke on Trent and Leicestershire county councils; the tri-council partnership between North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council. Other Councils currently undertaking the programme to achieve Timewise Council status, includes Enfield, Carlisle, Warwickshire, Taunton Deane, Surrey, Croydon, Tewkesbury and Carlisle city council.

Early feedback suggests these councils are starting to see, or are expecting to see, shifting management attitudes towards presenteeism, with their perceptions changing from having to accommodate flexibility, to seeing that it is very good for business.

This year, the Government Equalities Office and the Local Government Association are supporting the development of a Timewise Council network. Giving authorities the chance to undertake the programme at a subsidised rate, in order to build insight and learning.

We know the challenges for local government are significant, but becoming agile and flexible in how they work and manage their people, is one crucial way to become future fit. As Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth puts it… “Being Timewise allows us to recruit a more diverse workforce and help raise the standard of living for the families of those we employ.”

 

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Employment Law Brief with Darren Newman

Employment Law Brief with Darren Newman

In the first of many guest blogs by our colleagues and associates – Darren Newman provides an insightful and extremely relevant employment law update looking at the potential impact of social media in the workplace.

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Social media has revolutionised the way in which we interact and communicate with each other. This poses a challenge for employers. To what extent can the online activities of an employee be something that an employer can impose limits on? When can online comments made be the subject of disciplinary action?

As with any other area of off-duty conduct, the answer depends on the extent to which the employee’s activities impact on the legitimate business interests of the employer. Employees have a duty to render faithful service to the employer and publishing derogatory comments can be a breach of that duty. What an employee says online may also provide evidence that they are not a suitable person to be employed in a particular role.

Take the recent case of The British Waterways Board v Smith. Mr Smith was a manual worker who was required to be on 24-hour standby one week in every five to deal with any emergencies that might occur. The team in which he worked was not a happy one and a number of grievances were raised about alleged bullying.

Just before Mr Smith’s complaint was due to be heard, however, he was accused of gross misconduct based on comments he had made on Facebook. The comments had been taken directly from his Facebook page and some of them dated back up to two years.

Most of them simply stated that he hated his work and described his supervisors in (very) unflattering terms. More seriously, some of his comments referred to drinking while on standby – something strictly prohibited and regarded by the employer as gross misconduct.

Mr Smith argued that all of his comments – including those about drinking while on standby – were ‘banter’. He hadn’t intended them for public consumption, but his Facebook account had been hacked and the privacy settings changed so that anyone could read them.

The employer didn’t believe him and decided that he must have been drinking while on stand-by, so he was sacked for gross misconduct. The Tribunal found that the dismissal was unfair. Mr Smith had 8 years of unblemished service and consistently good performance reviews. The employer had actually known about the comments for some period of time before deciding to act and the Tribunal took this to show that the matter was less serious than the employer subsequently claimed.

The Tribunal also noted that the comments were made on a social media site used for ‘chat’ and which ‘frequently involves people making claims which are either exaggerated or simply not in fact true’. Given that a fair procedure had been followed and the employer honestly believed that Mr Smith had been drinking while on standby the only option open to the Tribunal was to find that the dismissal was fair. Frankly I think the employer had a lucky escape here. It does seem quite harsh to take everything someone says on their Facebook page – aimed solely at their own circle of friends – as the literal truth.

I can certainly imagine that someone would boast about drinking while on standby in order to seem cool and rebellious while staying scrupulously sober – and the employer had no other evidence that the employee had been drinking when he shouldn’t. But even if we take this case as being a close-run thing, there are still lessons that we can learn from it.

If the employer actually hacks into an employee’s account and obtains information illegally, then that is a different matter. But, in general, any evidence that an employer can lawfully access online is fair game.

I also think it was significant that some of the comments could be used as evidence of specific misconduct – drinking while on standby – as opposed to the employer’s concern that Mr Smith’s other comments had risked bringing the employer into disrepute. We all moan about our work – don’t we? Requiring employees to be positive and engaged while writing about their day on Facebook or Twitter is surely taking things too far. Employers may worry that when negative comments are published online they can be seen by the whole world.

However the reality is that most comments on social media are seen by almost no-one. It is important to keep a sense of perspective and think carefully about how much harm has actually been done. Where there is a more specific concern, however, then the employer is justified in taking a much harder line. In the Smith case the issue was drinking on stand-by.

In a lot of local authority work the concern will be over information regarding children or vulnerable people. Making an online comment even in jest that could lead to a vulnerable person being identified, or which might give the impression that appropriate care was not being given, is the sort of thing that an employer will be entitled to have no sense of humour about.

One of the key questions in an unfair dismissal case is often whether the employee should have understood that the conduct in question could lead to dismissal. Where employees work with vulnerable groups or where the employer has some other specific reason to be concerned about what might be said on social media – then it is worth making this clear, either in a general code of conduct or a specific social media policy.

It is best not to get carried away. A policy that is too restrictive will be widely ignored and will do more harm than good. Employers should appreciate that employees will say things online that they wouldn’t say in the workplace.

However, where an employee’s role causes a particular risk of harm if comments are misjudged or taken out of context then a strict policy is justified – and also helps protect the employee. One misplaced comment about a care home or school could erupt into a Twitter storm that can be a nightmare for the individual concerned as well as causing damage to the employer. If employees are given clear boundaries about referring to work on social media then most will be grateful to be given good practical advice.

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Don’t forget to check Darren Newman across the web:
Twitter: @DazNewman
Web: http://bit.ly/1KO27z9

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Leading the Way: Directors of Health Meeting 2015

Leading the Way: Directors of Health Meeting 2015

The heads of Human Resources of Greater Manchester, supported by North West Employers’ own Keith Power, met to discuss how to best manage their collective capacity to serve the local area now and in the future.

Local authorities continue to face particular challenges relating to the workforce of Children’s Social Work Professionals.  The recognition of the ongoing under supply of the key resource of experienced social workers and the need to respond to regulatory assessments of inadequate services, points towards collaborative arrangements being an important solution component. At national, regional and local levels the pressure to secure the recruitment and retention of experienced social workers has resulted in competitive behaviours between authorities that have increased costs for the sector without addressing the key underlying issues of delivering an improved supply of skilled and experienced permanent staff.

Surveys amongst the workforce indicate that pay is not the key driver of instability and significant vacancy levels. Further analysis of social worker pay through the ’Epaycheck’ pay benchmarking service identified numerous incentives and payments to attract staff and a trend of increasing pay ranges for ‘scarce’ categories of staff to attract or retain. Shortages in suitable experienced staff have led to dependence on expensive agency staff with consequential uncertainty about the stability and quality of significant workforce resources with authorities often experiencing a 20% vacancy rate.

“The Greater Manchester area is embracing the idea of looking past short term goals at the wider picture and working more collaboratively to best manage their collective capacity.“
Keith Power  – Director Workforce & Employment at North West Employers

National and regional work on supply, retention and the use of third party agencies will benefit all parties. The development and sharing of improved approaches is now being accelerated within the North West. GM authorities have recognised that a more collaborative and forward-thinking approach is required to address the issues of sustained satisfaction, support and development in the workforce, combining both short-term actions with a commitment to a more strategic approach. The GM authorities clearly see they have the opportunity to pave the way for real change, North West Employers will facilitate a further meeting to look at tangible action points and define a clearer vision for the future. Furthermore they will support these developments and similar approaches in the region, connecting them to national developments, reporting any updates and results through our Leading the Way articles.

If you would like to be involved in this ongoing work or are interested in joining the conversation then please do not hesitate to contact us.

E/ KeithP@nwemployers.org.uk
T/ 0161 834 9362

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Adult Learners Week 2015

Adult Learners Week 2015

Each year throughout May and June, the Adult Learners Week Festival of Learning provides thousands of opportunities for adults and families to have a go at learning.

As part of the festival, hundreds of organisations across the country hold learning events and activities that inspire adults to take their first steps into learning.

Get involved and find out more – Adult Learners Week Website

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Our Top 5 Tips for a Better Monday

Our Top 5 Tips for a Better Monday

We think Monday has been getting a raw deal over the years, the start of the week can sometimes seem daunting. Here at North West Employers we believe the start of the week should be your chance to set your ‘to do’ list or get things sorted in order to maintain a productive week.

Here are our top 5 tips for setting yourself up for a great week:

1. Create a to do list that you can actually stick to. Tackling those hardest tasks at the start of the day can give you a sense of accomplishment and increase motivation.

2. Minimise distractions – does your mobile beep away with app updates? Is the radio too loud or your favourite news website open in your browser? If you minimise these distractions that you control, you will save time and keep your focus for longer.

3. Get some fresh air! Make sure either before or after your lunch you go for a little walk, it doesn’t have to be a sweaty affair, just make sure you take in some fresh air.

4. Drink plenty of water. There’s nothing better than washing away those weekend habits that drinking the recommended amount of water for the day. We recommend 8 Glasses.

5. Take advantage of your Sky+ or catch up services. Instead of staying up way past your bedtime on Sunday, record all your favourite shows and reward yourself through the week.

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