CIRC 166: NATIONAL CHAIR UPDATE DECEMBER 2020

Please ensure the contents of this Circular are brought to the attention of all POA members.

 


NATIONAL CHAIR ELECTION
I would like to take the opportunity to pass on my sincerest thanks to all members who voted for me in the recent National Chair ballot. I am extremely humbled, proud and honoured to continue to lead you and will continue to work tirelessly on your behalf to improve every aspect of your working life. I will strive to visit you all in your Prisons and look forward to meeting you soon.


PAY RECOMMENDATION 3
The Government have announced that they are rejecting pay recommendation 3 which would have given Band 3 staff on Fair and Sustainable terms and conditions an immediate consolidated pay rise of £3k. The Pay Review Body is independent and was set up as a compensatory measure for the POA because we do not have the right to strike. We are appalled by this decision and will do everything within our power to fight for our members right to have this recommendation implemented in full. This award would have gone some way to addressing pay parity between F&S and closed grades. A more detailed circular in relation to this decision will be published.


MARKET SUPPLEMENTS
Staff in receipt of Market Supplements between £3-£5k per annum should note that these temporary allowances are due for review in February 2021. They are not permanent and can be removed at any time. All members who receive market supplements should check their contract of employment and letter of appointment to ascertain if it includes the following:
This allowance [£5000] was implemented in February 2017 for a period of 4 years and is payable to individuals working in some of our highest priority recruitment prisons. Once this period ends HMPPS have given assurance that no individual will suffer any financial detriment should there be any changes to the current arrangements.

The POA legal team are of the opinion that the above statement that HMPPS have given assurance that no individual will suffer any financial detriment should there be a change to current arrangements appears to be contractually binding. It formed part of the offer that recruits accepted when they took the job. If this supplement was removed after February 2021 staff should be in no worse financial position than they are now. HMPPS could increase the Recruitment and Retention allowance or replace it with another allowance which is equal to it or more than it, but they could not just cut pay. This would be legally binding on the employer.


INCREMENTAL PAY
Staff who were due an increment to the next pay point as per 2020/21 pay award should have received it backdated. Due to the announcement by the Government that there will be a pay freeze in 2021/22 there has been no indication as yet if future pay increments will be honoured. There is no contractual right to incremental pay, and they are awarded solely on the recommendation of the pay review body subject to approval by the Government. As soon as we are made aware of the intentions surrounding incremental pay for the years 2021/22 a circular will be published.


ISOLATION AND PRE-BOOKED LEAVE
After intervention from the NEC the employer has agreed to reinstate pre booked annual leave for staff who have been forced to self-isolate. Please take note of the following:

Where a period of self-isolation coincides with a period of pre-booked leave and due to the nature of self-isolation the individual is unable to rest, relax and enjoying leisure time, which is the fundamental purpose of holiday, they can request the leave be postponed to be taken at a later date in the leave year, or carried over to be taken in the next 2 years as prescribed in the March 2020 amendment to the working time regulations.

Please ensure you check with your detail departments that your leave has been reinstated. We continue to pursue a similar issue in relation to staff who were shielding and forced to use pre booked leave.


COVID-19 VACCINATIONS
The POA continue to work with HMPPS to prioritise prison staff for the Covid vaccination. We await a Government decision on the next batch of workers who will be prioritised for the vaccination.

 

STAFF SHIELDING
During the national restrictions in England, staff in the clinically extremely vulnerable group were required to work from home or be at home on special leave. From 2nd December staff in the clinically extremely vulnerable group should work from home wherever possible, particularly where prisons are in tier 3. If this is not possible, the member of staff’s risk assessment must be reviewed before any return to the workplace, and appropriate controls be put in place. Line managers should follow the published Covid risk assessment guidance which can be found on the Covid section of the intranet.


WINTER REGIMES
There have been numerous concerns raised in relation to some Governors attempting to expand regimes after lockdown. Please note the following:

The number of individuals being unlocked should be decided locally in consultation with local POA committees. It remains important that regime groups are not mixing, and prisoners are accessing domestic periods or activities in consistent groups.

The updated Industries EDM published as part of the winter regime review includes a reviewed list of essential workshops that can be run. Establishments can continue running workshops from this list if they were already approved prior to national lockdown, if they want to open a workshop from this list that has not been approved, they need to consult this locally with TUs and seek PGDs approval. If sites identify there is an urgent need to open a new workshop beyond what can be found in that list, they need to contact GOLD for approval, however this is understood to be reserved for exceptional cases (e.g., to urgently meet a demand of an internal market where a relevant workshop had to be temporarily shut in another establishment).

The delivery of faith services can now be returned to the level from before 5th of November when National Restrictions were reintroduced. Prayer groups and corporate worship can happen at stage 3 as directed by the EDM.

Haircutting can take place on wings/units in line with the published SOP (available on the operational guidance page). However, barbering/hairdressing workshops cannot be currently open, but this is being kept under review.

As we move out of national restrictions, establishments will revert to their pre-lockdown position of education provision subject to still being possible to deliver in a Covid-safe manner – e.g., the current staffing levels and outbreak status at the establishment allowing. The updated Education EDM will allow establishments to have small groups in classroom-based activity authorised for your establishments. However, this must be risk assessed locally and consulted with local TUs and should only be done with the same prisoners from the same cohort and the same staff. Risk assessed access to library can also be considered so that it is consistent with what is allowed in the community. Subject to provider agreement.

 

FLUID RESISTANT SURGICAL MASKS (FRSM)
It was temporarily mandated that all red sites for the duration of the national restrictions would require staff to wear FRSMs in all areas. This requirement has been rescinded and the pre-existing strategy and the three-tiered model governing the deployment of face masks has been refreshed and reintroduced. Governors and Directors in red sites should though consider the continued use of FRSM (and face coverings) in all high-risk areas. Local committees are encouraged to liaise with their SMTs to review current working practices.


HEALTH & SAFETY INSPECTIONS
Through NEC engagement at the National Health, Safety and Fire Whitley meetings, assurance visits conducted by local Health, Safety and Fire staff have already commenced in establishments to ensure adherence to nationally agreed COVID-19 safety measures. Recognising the important role of Trade Union safety representatives, HMPPS have agreed that local POA representatives may take part in these visits (alongside other local recognised trade union representatives), if they are not already doing so. Local branch committees are encouraged to secure facility time to progress workplace inspections to ensure all safe working procedures are adequate and are being adhered to.


STAFF TRAINING AND C&R/MMPR
All essential training can be continued however non-essential training should not be reintroduced. We have agreed that Counter terrorism training can be facilitated via the use of Payment Plus. Locally delivered refresher training for MMPR and C&R should now resume on a ‘best effort’ basis. Priority should be given to refreshing C&R advanced trained staff who are relied upon for TORNADO commitment. Staff should note that C&R and MMPR refreshers must include practical elements and not solely use of force theory.


WALES
Welsh prisons will continue to operate their existing regime model which has been in place since 9th November when firebreak restrictions formally ended. Establishments reverted at this point to pre-lockdown regime levels, subject to any regime restrictions and live outbreak controls. However, based on the agreed UK wide rules for the festive period, cross-border social visits for the period 23rd to 27th of December will be allowed, although this may change if the Welsh Government impose further community restrictions.


POA SCOTLAND
After three sites experienced Covid outbreaks the situation has now stabilised with no further reported cases of Covid within Scottish Prisons. Social visits are due to be reintroduced.

 

 

NORTHERN IRELAND
Our colleagues in Northern Ireland still await a pay award for 2020/21. There have been no major outbreaks of Covid in prisons as the track and trace protocols are working effectively. Social visits will be restarting soon.

ROTL
ROTL will continue to operate over Christmas under existing procedures, with no special dispensation for the Christmas period. For establishments at Stage 3 this is primarily ROTL for work or education. ROTL to support family contact is permitted, but ROTL to domestic addresses or overnight stays is only allowed from establishments in Tier 1 and to home addresses in Tier 1, or the equivalent in Wales. There is no intention to relax this for the period of relaxed restrictions in England over the Christmas period, given the heightened risk of infection that this would pose to establishments.


NATIONAL ASSESSMENTS
Promotion Assessments during 2020 were suspended due to Covid-19. HMPPS will reintroduce assessments in 2021 and will produce a calendar of assessment dates on the intranet. Development workbooks will need to be 100% complete for all assessments. Further information can be accessed on the intranet.


FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR POA HEALTH MEMBERS
The COVID-19 Healthcare Support Appeal (CHSA) is a new, time-limited charity which makes grants to organisations that are supporting health care staff who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on hardship and psychological support. We are pleased to announce that the POA have been successful in making an application to the Charity in respect of POA members who are health workers and have been awarded approximately £50,000 to be distributed for:

• The relief of suffering, poverty, hardship and distress among nurses and other health and social care workers and their families and dependants; and
• The protection of the physical and mental health of nurses and other health and social care workers and their families and dependants.

This can include a contribution for living costs for those who are required to self-isolate, financial support for those contracting the disease where recovery is lengthy and/or individuals who require rehabilitation to meet the criteria to be physically or mentally fit for work. Financial support for those who require adaptions where they do not make a full recovery from COVID-19.

The money will be used to support POA members who are health care workers who work within secure settings in the UK in both the private and public sector. This will include a range of staff, nurses, health care assistants, administrative staff, cleaners, catering, and security.

The only criteria are that they must be a POA member to make an application. It is recognised that the majority of POA members working in the health care setting will be from the secure hospitals, therefore, applications should be made through the Secure Hospital branches of the POA.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a safe, peaceful and relaxing Christmas and New Year. Enjoy what precious down time you may have with your families and friends.

All the very best.

MARK FAIRHURST
National Chair

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.