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National Chair Update April 2021
Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of all POA members.
Future regimes survey
The NEC have agreed a joint statement with HMPPS (enclosed) that enshrines the employer’s commitment to working in partnership with the POA to shape future regimes. It is important that frontline staff have their say. We therefore invite all POA members to highlight to the employer how they think future prison regimes should look like by accessing a survey via the following link
HMPPS have finally submitted their pay recommendations for 2021/22. They fall in line with Government policy. A copy of HMPPS submissions can be found via the following link:
Use of force training
Plans are being drawn up to reintroduce priority elements of Use of Force training which will recommence after June 21st providing the Government approve the lifting of restrictions on that date. Courses that will take priority include C&R Instructors revalidations, Advanced refreshers, SPEAR, PAVA and Rigid bar cuffs.
Further information will be shared once plans are finalised.
Prison Staff: Market Supplements Update
POA members in receipt of Market Supplement payments should note the following confirmation from HMPPS:
HMPPS can now confirm that it is able to continue for another year the market supplement payments for Band 3 Prison Officers currently being made at 31 prisons.
Staff in receipt of this allowance should note the following from HMPPS pay submission
Identifying arrangements beyond April 2022 will require careful consideraton – including of the effectiveness and ongoing need for Market Supplements, as well as value for money. A Market Supplement review is being carried out to support this and the findings will be delivered ahead of the 2022/23 pay round.
Payment Plus Incentive Scheme
HMPPS have confirmed that any staff who owe hours in the original PP Incentive Scheme that was brought in last April should note that the time limit to repay any outstanding hours has been extended until March 2022.
REPORTING STAFF COVID-19 CASES TO THE HEALTH AND SAFETY EXECUTIVE
HMPPS are processing new procedures for reporting cases of Covid-19 to the Health and safety Executive. Members should note the following that the NEC have received from the employer:
We are currently refreshing our guidance to Health and Safety Leads across prisons and probations on the reporting requirements for Covid-19 cases of illness or fatalities under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).
HMPPS submits RIDDOR reports on a regular basis, primarily in relation to assaults or use of force injuries. As Covid-19 is a new context, we have consulted with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to test our understanding of their Covid-19 guidance. HSE has confirmed that they would not anticipate receiving RIDDOR reports in the large majority of cases and reinforced the importance of considering each individual case on the available evidence to determine whether a report is required.
HSE requires employers to report occupational exposures of Covid-19 that result in illnesses (cases of disease) or fatalities (work-related deaths due to exposure to a biological agent), where there is reasonable evidence that a work-related exposure is the likely cause of the disease. For an occupational exposure to be judged as the likely cause of a disease or workplace fatality, HSE requires that it is more likely than not, that a person's work was the source of exposure to coronavirus, as opposed to general societal exposure.
HSE recognises that such cases may not be easy to identify when COVID-19 is prevalent in the general population but stipulates that working with the general public is not considered sufficient evidence to attribute a COVID-19 diagnosis to an occupational exposure. Additionally, given the prevalence of the disease at a societal level it is important to distinguish between a potential exposure happening at a workplace as opposed to one which arises from the work itself. As such, a very significant proportion of cases will not require a report to be made. When deciding whether a RIDDOR report is required, the responsible person (the local Health and Safety Lead) will consider all relevant factors, including the likelihood of societal exposure outside of work and the use of control measures in work (including PPE and social distancing), to determine whether the incident meets the threshold for reporting.
Due to the global pandemic status and levels of prevalence in the community, the control measures in place, and based on the HSE Covid-19 guidance for RIDDOR, cases of Covid-19 work-related illness and fatalities across HMPPS are very unlikely to meet the threshold for RIDDOR reporting and HSE discourages employers from submitted reports on a precautionary basis.
Any member of staff who concludes that they may have contracted COVID whilst on duty should submit an accident report form so a thorough investigation can take place and apply for a sick leave excusal if their illness continues beyond the statutory 10-day isolation period.
The situation in our secure hospitals continues to improve with very few staff or patient positive cases. POA committees continue to work tirelessly on members behalf and have been instrumental in ensuring their workplaces remain as safe as they can be. Their efforts have been commendable.
Gatwick IRC pay offer
The Ballot for the DCO Pay Offer 2020/2021 at Gatwick IRC has now been completed and the membership accepted the offer by 96 to 32. The offer was
All POA members should make themselves aware of POA circular 29/2021 which covers the new guidance issued by HMPPS in relation to Covid absences. Each case must be considered on its own merits and any issues should be progressed to Area NEC representatives.
Emergency Services Football League
POA members are invited to participate in the ESFL 5-A Side competition which will take place at Goals in the Black Country on 17 July 2021.
Separate women’s and men’s competitions will run. Full details can be found via the following link or by accessing the ESFL website.
A New Employee Health Support Service
Members are reminded of a new health and wellbeing facility that they can access from their workplace.
In partnership with Optima Health, there is a free health support service to help you understand your condition better and gain access to tools to help you to make improvements to your health and wellbeing. You should access the service if you suffer from one of the following conditions or, if you feel you may be beginning to experience signs or symptoms relating to the following:
You can call health advisors between 9am – 4pm on 03300084336. If the lines are busy, you may be offered a call back slot which will be agreed with you on the phone.
The easing of restrictions and the vaccination roll out is slower than the rest of the United Kingdom. The area committee are due to progress pay negotiations for 2021/22 in the near future.
The NEC are dismayed at the lack of decision making by HMPPS in relation to the issue of utility vests for staff. The excessive equipment staff are forced to wear on utility belts leads to adverse health conditions for POA members. We feel utility vests offer more practicalities, are professional, smart and benefit staff. We are opposed to any further delays in relation to the roll out of utility vests for staff should they need them. The NEC will continue to engage with the employer until they finally decide if they wish to issue utility vests.
We are therefore advising any member of staff who feels their health is suffering due to the amount of kit they are forced to wear on a utility belt to immediately ensure they are referred to occupational health so they may discuss their issues and get provided with, as a reasonable workplace adjustment, a utility vest. The immediate need to provide a reasonable adjustment to staff who are experiencing musculoskeletal issues due to the excessive amount of kit they are forced to carry on utility belts is currently something that is addressed on an individual basis and a bespoke solution is identified at a local level following advice from OH. In some cases, equipment vests have been issued.
We are preparing to lodge Employment Tribunal claims on behalf of members who have been forced to take annual leave whilst shielding. We remain open to resolving this issue without legal action and await further dialogue with the employer.
The proposed POA memorial has been approved by the National Arboretum in Stafford. Plans to erect a fitting tribute to all our ex-forces personnel and colleagues we have lost throughout the pandemic can now progress. Once an anticipated completion date is finalised the membership will be updated.
As we continue to see a significant reduction in Covid outbreaks in our secure settings it is important that we remain vigilant to the threat it poses. The road out of lockdown and restrictions will be a protracted process. Local committees are encouraged to secure adequate facility time to engage with future regime plans for their establishments.
The NEC will continue to ensure your concerns are addressed.
Stay safe and all the best.
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.