Joint Staff Consultative Committee Minutes

Wednesday, 21st December, 2016
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City

Attendance Details

Councillor Mrs A.G. Ashley (Chairman), Councillor Bernard Lovewell, Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham and Councillor Martin Stears - Handscomb.
In attendance:
Kerry Shorrocks (Corporate Human Resources Manager), Maggie Williams (Senior HR and Contracts Manager), Christina Corr (Staff Consultation Forum), Mrs D Levett (Unison), Susanne Gow (Committee and Member Services Officer) and Hilary Dineen (Committee and Member Services).
Item Description/Decision
Apologies for absence were received from Claire Morgan (Staff Consultation Forum).
IT WAS AGREED: That the Minutes of the Joint Staff Consultative Committee meeting held on 28 September 2016 be confirmed as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
There was no other business.
(1) The Chairman welcomed all Members and officers to the Meeting;

(2) The Chairman reminded all present that, in line with Council policy, the meeting was being audio recorded;

(3) The Chairman informed Members that Susanne Gow (Committee and Member Services Officer) would be retiring on 30 December 2016. Susanne had worked for NHDC for almost 10 years and had been clerk to this Committee for much of that time.

The Chairman asked that the Joint Staff Consultative Committee formally thank Susanne for her work with the Committee and offer their best wishes for her retirement.

Members unanimously supported the proposal and the Chairman made a presentation of a gift on behalf of the Committee.

(4) Members were reminded that any declarations of interest in respect of any business set out in the agenda should be declared as either a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest or Declarable Interest and were required to notify the Chairman of the nature of any interest declared at the commencement of the relevant item on the agenda. Members declaring a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest must withdraw from the meeting for the duration of the item. Members declaring a Declarable Interest which required they leave the room under Paragraph 7.4 of the Code of Conduct, could speak on the item, but must leave the room before the debate and vote.

IT WAS AGREED: That the Joint Staff Consultative Committee offer their thanks to Susanne Gow (Committee and Member Services Officer) for work with the Committee and offer their best wishes for her retirement.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager drew attention to the Minutes of the meetings of the Staff Consultation Forum held on 5 October 2016 and 2 November 2016 and the Draft Minutes of 7 December 2016 as follows:

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that, following the departure of John Robinson (Strategic Director of Customer Services). she was seeking a Chief Officer to join the Staff Consultation Forum and the Trade Union Consultation meetings

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that she had not been present at this meeting.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that, as the Staff Consultation Forum was the main forum to discuss changes and re-organisation, Rebecca Coates (Community Safety Manager) had been invited to talk about the introduction of dashboard cameras and Mark Scanes (Systems and Technical Manager) discussed the re-organisation of his team.

Debbie Hiscock (Property Services) attended the meeting to give an update, the move from DCO to Town Lodge was nearing and they had arranged for an open day at the Museum and Town Lodge to allow staff the opportunity to have a look around.

The NHDC update included information about the Local Plan and Council budgets. The new internal e-magazine call Insight, which was an amalgamation of Team Talk and NHDC News, had been launched two months ago. Approximately 80 percent of staff responded to a survey about this new communication method and stated that they liked it. This was now giving intelligent information about what staff were looking at and were interested in and was the biggest step forward for internal communications for some years.

Members asked for clarification regarding the type of intelligent information given by Insight.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that the pages looked at were recorded, which gave information about what people were interested in.

Members commented that the Minutes of the SCF needed to be clear and drew attention to Minute 6 which mentioned steel works, but not the location of those works.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager clarified that this related to the works being undertaken at the North Herts Leisure Centre and that she would arrange for the Minutes to be changed to make them clearer.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that, by the time of this meeting the move from DCO had started and this meeting had been held in Town Lodge.

The discussion regarding the move of people from DCO to Town Lodge was very positive with all teams saying how well it had been handled by both Property Services and I.T. They did a terrific job and many Officers thanked those teams personally.
A snagging list of small items that might be improved in the near future was produced and most of these had now been completed.

The NHDC Update had included details of the budget position, the North Herts Leisure Centre, the waste contract and Hitchin Town Hall and Museum.

Members commented that, from their perspective, the move from DCO was seamless and that they had only heard positive comments about how the move was handled from officers. They asked that the thanks of this Committee be passed on to all concerned.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that the Customer Service Centre had opened one hour later on their first day at Town lodge and that this had been planned and publicised well in advance, but otherwise there had been no problems for our customers.

(1) That the congratulations and thanks of this Committee for a smooth and well organised move from DCO be passed to all involved, particularly Property Services and I.T.;

(2) That the Minutes of the Staff Consultation Forum held on 5 October 2016 and 2 November 2016 and the Draft Minutes of 7 December 2016 be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Joint Staff Consultative Committee to consider any issues addressed by the Staff Consultation Forum.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that this was the first Joint Staff Consultative Committee Annual Report.

She informed Members that the report aimed to give a summary of the work undertaken by the Human Resources Department for both business as usual and projects and drew attention to the following:

Recruitment had been an extremely busy area of work. Unemployment rates had fallen to the lowest rates since 2005, which put pressure on Local Government recruitment, particularly as private sector pay may be more attractive. Losing staff to the private sector was a risk highlighted in the People Strategy in 2015.

In the last 12 months 62 people had been recruited, although it should be noted that turnover had reduced and NHDC was on a par with other Shire Districts.

The 2015/16 Local Government Workforce Survey had been completed. The results of these surveys gave a lot of intelligent information about how NHDC compared with similar organisations.

I.T. had helped automate the recruitment system, which now included an on-line application form and a much improved short listing process. This not only sped up the process, but made it a much better experience for the applicants and recruiting Managers.

Compared to other organisations, NHDC’s spend on agency workers was very small, but this meant the NHDC was not attractive for agency supply framework agreements. NHDC therefore employs agency workers directly and it was important that Managers liaised with Human Resources to ensure that the right sort of agencies were approached.

The main spend on agency workers was in the areas where it was difficult to recruit such as Legal Services.

There was a policy in place regarding use of agency workers and an audit regarding the use of temporary workers was undertaken for which a substantial level of assurance was given.

Work was being undertaken to reinvigorate the NHDC Temporary Staff Register, which should be the first place that Managers consider employing from.

In response to a question, the Corporate Human Resources Manager explained that the Temporary Register was a list of people who had been through the recruitment process, they were often retirees. This was not generally advertised, but consideration was being given to targeted advertising for recruitment to the Temporary Register for specific areas such as Careline.

There were a lot of changes due in 2017. From April 2017 there would be a new levy and the public sector would be set targets to either employ a certain number of apprentices or start a certain number of apprenticeships.

Work was being undertaken locally and regionally to consider how we could work collaboratively on improving the number of apprenticeships and apprenticeship providers available. This would give NHDC the opportunity not only to continue to take young people on to the standard apprenticeships such as business administration, but would also enable the use of higher apprenticeships to enable existing staff to move onto a development route, which would count towards the targets.

The current scheme continued to be managed resulting in a good proportion of young people joining the organisation staying in the organisation.

The Human Resources Team offered support during restructures of departments which could include the issuing of variations of contracts to take into account increased home working, job evaluation and consultations.

The equal pay review was completed earlier in the year and the team was now working on the mandatory gender pay gap reporting requirements.

Work undertaken in respect of wellbeing and learning and development was detailed in the report.

A new performance review process had been implemented last year with 94 percent of appraisals being completed by July. A new set of competencies had been developed, which would be used in conjunction with the new regular performance review process.

There were new standards and criteria for Investors in people and preparation work was underway for a reassessment in 2017.

The staff survey results were published in spring 2016. Service level results were sent to Service Heads who were asked to complete an action plan for their area, which would be published with the Service Plans. Insight, the new e-magazine, and the review of the long service policy were outcomes of the staff survey.

The Pay Policy Statement was made at the start of the year and work was being undertaken in preparation for the next statement due to be published in April 2017.

There was a two year pay deal last year. Most staff received a pay rise of one percent in 2016/17 and would receive a further one percent in 2017/18. The lowest paid staff, on grade one, received significantly higher percentage pay rises in order to meet the National Living Wage, those staff affected would receive a further increase of approximately three percent in April 2017.

A Member queried how many staff were paid at the lowest rate.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that the only people on grade one were apprentices and a few seasonal play workers who were employed on a temporary basis over the holidays. The NHDC apprentice pay rate was substantially higher than the national apprenticeship rate.

Contracting out of pensions, which meant that staff paying into an occupational pension scheme paid a lower National Insurance, ceased in April 2016 resulting in an increase of National Insurance payments of approximately 1.2 percent for all employees.

As the pay increase for 2016/17 was one percent, the take home pay for employees went down, but this was communicated to all staff well in advance.

Three salary sacrifice schemes were on offer to staff being:
Childcare Vouchers - a very popular scheme;
Bikes for Work - had been popular over the period of offer;
Car Lease Scheme - was less popular.

2015/16 had been another excellent year with very low levels of absence.

There had been some long term absence cases that Human Resources had worked hard to resolve as quickly as possible

In October 2016 short term absences had turned red against the performance target, the first time this had happened since 2009. Despite this NHDC remained in the top quartile. Analysis of this trend had been undertaken but no particular reason for this level of short term absence was found therefore managers had been requested to investigate any trends in their area.

Well over 100 staff had taken up the option to have a flu vaccination.

This had been difficult to implement and there had so far only been one member of staff take this option. There were potentially more changes on the horizon, with talk of grandparents being enabled to take a share of parental leave.

Audits of payroll, use of agency staff, officer and member allowances and absence management had all given a substantial level of assurance

Managers were sent a quarterly HR update, which were used as an opportunity to remind managers of actions resulting from audits such as the need for leaver forms to be processed in a timely manner.

Human Resources also contributed to a number of other audits including the finance and ethical policies audits.

Audit planning meetings had started regarding potential audits for 2017.

The strategic discussions had included:
Austerity and budget pressures;
Pubic sector job losses;
The impact of pay restraint on employee morale;
Freedom of information;
Data protection;
The impact on HR of subject access requests;
Using learning and development to promote wellbeing and resilience;
Work experience opportunities for young people.

(1) That the Corporate Human Resources Manager and her team be thanked for the work undertaken during 2016/17;

(2) That the Annual Report of the Joint Staff Consultative Committee 2016/17 be noted.

To enable the Joint Staff Consultative Committee to review the work undertaken during 2016/17.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager presented a paper giving a roundup of current Government consultations.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager explained that the report included some of the issues that were being monitored that could have an impact on the work of the department and affect the organisation.

Members were reminded that there was a review of national pay scales being undertaken and Councils had been advised to expect a reasonable level of pay increase as a result.

A recent update had confirmed that the project was on track and that talks with the Trade Unions were going well.

The project was expected to conclude by 30 June 2017.

This matter had been discussed for sometime but no detailed information had been released. This information had been expected to start in October 2016, but had been delayed.

Members queried whether there would be any implications for officers on existing contracts.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that it was understood that it would not affect those who had left the organisation before the regulations came into effect.

It was noted that contracts of employment would likely be affected

The Corporate Human Resources Manager confirmed that, once the regulations came into effect, a review of the early severance policy and pensions discretions would be required.

This applied to people who were employed on a self-employed basis to do a specific piece of work or act as a consultant, usually a specialist in their field.

Previously these people were responsible for ensuring their own tax and national insurance was paid correctly and on time. The onus was now being put on the Council, as the employer, to make sure that the correct payments were made.

The EELGA was arranging a number of round table discussions regarding this, as they were aware that this would be difficult for local authorities to manage. The aim was for them to be able to offer guidance to individual authorities.

Heads of Service that may be using this type of employment had been made aware of the legislation and resulting issues.

Research regarding this had been started in preparation for the start of the reporting requirements.

Three salary sacrifice schemes were currently offered by the Council with childcare vouchers and bikes for work being popular and the car scheme, which was less so.

Any employee using a salary sacrifice scheme benefited from a reduced level of national insurance, as did the Council. Under the HMRC’s proposals from April 2017 these advantages would no longer apply to car schemes, unless the car was ultra low emission.

It was difficult to clearly define what ultra low emission cars might be, but it would likely be electric and hybrid cars, which were quite expensive and therefore may not be appealing to people buying cars under the scheme, having said that, it may be that small city cars would also be included.

Car schemes received some coverage in the autumn statement and the Government had announced that current arrangements for cars taken under a salary sacrifice scheme would not be affected.

NHDC had four members of staff who had entered into the car salary sacrifice scheme. This was a very low take up and it was time to review whether to continue using this scheme. Alternatives such as pool cars for those using cars for work could be considered.

It was planned that a corporate board meeting would consider the issues.

Members asked whether other authorities had made any decisions regarding their salary sacrifice car schemes and whether the fact that the scheme only applied to new cars made it less attractive to staff.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that NHDC was part of a framework agreement that was available to other authorities and that the take up by staff had been very low. The lease cars included servicing and insurance and staff taking up the scheme benefitted from national insurance and tax breaks. The Government would likely remove these benefits.

The Unison Representative advised that she had received no feedback regarding the take up of these schemes in other authorities and that the salary required to qualify for the scheme was very high.

The Council had been considering introducing other salary sacrifice schemes, which would enable staff to benefit from national insurance and tax breaks, particularly as pay and benefits had not been very motivational for staff for a long period of time. The Government had indicated that these benefits would likely be removed for any salary sacrifice schemes regarding luxury goods.

IT WAS AGREED: That the roundup of current Government consultations be noted.

To ensure that the Joint Staff Consultative Committee is kept appraised of current Government consultations.
The Senior HR and Contracts Manager introduced the discussion paper on providing work experience at North Hertfordshire District Council as follows:

• NHDC had been providing work experience for many years and this activity dovetailed with the work undertaken with apprentices in that it gave, mainly young people in the District, the opportunity to gain an understanding of the work that the Council did.
• There was a tight definition of work experience in this context.
• Year 10 (15 year olds) had a requirement to undertake a week long work placement in order to get an overview of the environment.
• The Council had very strong links with a number of local schools, who knew that they would receive good quality placements.
• Work experience enabled the Council to promote employment in the organisation to a group of people who may have had any other contact with, or consider NHDC as a prospective employer.
• Work placements were also offered to people at college or university who were required to undertake a placement relevant to their course. These types of placement were generally longer than one week, if the service area can support it, as the requirement was at a higher level.
• A lot of work was undertaken to ensure the quality of the placements to ensure that the participant had a worthwhile experience.
• Placements were restricted to residents of North Hertfordshire.
• Students were referred to the Council for potential placement through the local schools, through careers fairs attended by staff from NHDC and through personal approaches as well as through Youth Connextions.
• Every effort was made to match a student with their preferred area of work.
• There were a number of service areas that had provided placements over many years including I.T., Children’s Services, Environmental Health, Customer Services Centre, Museums and Human Resources. On one occasion someone shadowed the Leader of the Council. The wide variety of services meant that placements could be very different from hands on of the museum service, the activity of the children’s services to the office based I.T.
• This placement was likely the first time that the participant would have been in a work environment, therefore a lot of nurturing and support was required.
• Officer liaised with teachers to ensure a productive and enjoyable experience.
• Offering work placements enabled the Council to support the community and showcase services as well as nurture potential future employees.
• Work placement could be used by young people on their CVs as it was something that differentiates individuals when applying for university of for a job.
• Work placements were unpaid and the participants were taken on specifically for work placement and were therefore not employees.
• A brief induction usually took place prior to the individual starting their placement which included meeting the person they would be working with, so that they would hopefully feel more comfortable on their first day.
• Fearnhill and Hitchin Boys School would be making placements during 2017.

Councillor Needham informed Members that three pupils had shadowed her and that, as she worked on one to one basis with them, she had to have CRB checks on every occasion. On one occasion the Princes Trust requested a month long placement and as the pupil was transported by taxi, the driver of the taxi also had to be CRB checked. This demonstrated that there was a lot of work involved in these work placements.

Members noted that a lot of pupils resident in North Herts attended schools outside of the District and drew attention to Thomas Moore School, Stevenage and schools in Cambridgeshire. They queried whether this school was aware of the opportunities for work placements and how many placements were offerred each year.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that NHDC had provided placements for students from Thomas Moore and placements had been provided to sons and daughters of employees, whether they were resident in North Herts or not. Approximately 10 to 12 pupils were given work experience each year.

Members asked about where the responsibility for risk assessments regarding work placements lay.

The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that both the schools and NHDC were insured and that steps were taken to make sure that risks were covered.
The Corporate Human Resources Manager advised that she would update the list with any new topics as they are suggested during the year.

IT WAS AGREED: That the following topics would be discussed at the meetings shown:

• Potential changes to disability laws - Joint Staff Consultative Committee - 29 March 2017;
• Shared Parental Leave - Joint Staff Consultative Committee - 28 June 2017.
Published on Thursday, 16th February, 2017