Workplace Report November 2017


It’s not just pay that’s on the bargaining agenda for unions

The fight for better pay has not stopped negotiators tackling a wide range of bargaining issues including holidays, work-life balance and family friendly issues, sick pay and working time. Workplace Report continues its analysis of the 2016-17 pay round.

As reported last month, although pay rises have been stuck at a midpoint of 2.0% to 2.5% for some years now, there has been lot going on behind that headline figure, with bargaining over other terms and conditions. In the 2016-17 pay round, leave, sick leave, other working time arrangements and related additional pay have been one key focus. 

One in eight pay deals (13%) addressed these working time issues, typically going beyond the statutory minimum entitlements (see table). One in 10 altered premia, allowances, or shift and other pay additions (one in five, if “flow-through” deals that maintained the value of existing payments are counted). 

There were plenty of other terms and conditions on the pay bargaining table - from meal allowances, car parking permits and cycle schemes to loans, death benefits and job security - but working time issues generally have a broad impact in the workplace.


Leave of one form or another has been a priority for many negotiators. Annual leave was improved by two days at the Co-operative Banking Group (see table) and at B&M (Heron Foods). It increased to 30 days (plus 8 public holidays) from the first day of employment at Bouygues E&S FM UK Ltd (School of Oriental & African Studies). The survey identified other examples in telecoms, transport, construction and public services. In a few cases negotiators agreed on ways that employees can “buy” extra leave or “sell” part of their non-statutory leave.

Improved leave may be time-limited. Some improvements were “for this year only” (for example, at First Direct, cleaning product manufacturer Robert McBride and for Police Staff in Scotland). Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People agreed an additional public holiday in September, while two special half-days at Northumbrian Water again allowed staff to take two full days off over the Xmas/New Year period. However, at engineering group Castings plc flexibility was increased by allowing employees to take their October holiday of five to eight days as “floating days” (along with 20 fixed and eight statutory days). 

Some improvements were related to service or other criteria. Building materials group British Gypsum introduced an additional shift of holiday after 10 years’ service and reduced the service requirement for a further shift from 25 to 20 years. Property quango Registers of Scotland agreed to faster access to service-related leave, as did gas distributor SGN (for industrial staff). Meanwhile, charity Action for Children agreed to remove the previous two-tier system, raising all staff onto the higher entitlement (29 days excluding public holidays, rising to 34 after five years’ service). 

Key legal rulings over what counts as normal pay (for paid leave under the European Working Time Directive) kept this issue on the boil. The GMB agreement at airport services group Swissport now provides a quarterly holiday pay supplement based on additional/overtime hours, while Visteon Engineering Services added regular shift pay into its calculation, backdated to July 2015. At Bentley Motors (Crewe), overtime payments over 24 weeks will be included in the calculation of holiday pay for 2018 (over 28 weeks, for 2019).

Special and parental leave

Compassionate leave was improved at George Best Belfast City Airport (see table), as was bereavement leave at Tyneside Safety Glass (which is now inclusive of shift allowance and other enhancements). At Joseph Walkers Shortbread, step-parents are now included in bereavement leave entitlement.

Development agency Highlands & Islands Enterprise doubled its volunteering special leave entitlement to two days, alongside maternity and shared parental leave improvements (see table). Nexus (Tyne & Wear Metro) agreed to explore a procedure for a day’s paid leave a year for evidence-based charity work, subject to an appropriate approval process.

Mondelez (Cadbury) improved the value of its maternity pay (see table) and Nissan extended paid company maternity leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. International Automotive Components — JLR Halewood improved its paternity pay (see table), as did Paint Process Management — JLR Contract where it is now £300 a week for two weeks. 

Shared Parental Leave was enhanced at parcel delivery firm Yodel to the same level as maternity pay. 

Adoption leave was improved in the revised Police Staff Council handbook (see table), while an adopter covered by the Ford salaried staff pay deal can take two days’ paid leave to attend adoption appointments, if they are not taking adoption leave. 

The Scottish Government increased paid maternity and adoption leave by one week to 27 weeks while raising paid paternity leave from two to four weeks’ full pay. Chiltern Railways will be improving maternity pay so that the first 15 weeks (currently paid at 100% of average weekly earnings) is followed by six weeks at 50% (paternity pay entitlement also doubled to two weeks at normal basic pay).

Paid sick leave

Paid leave for sickness absence was another focus in the 2016-17 pay round, including a new scheme at Carillion (Arriva Rail North) (see table). 

At DHL Preston Brook, it increased by one week to seven weeks’ full pay (for staff with three to five years’ service) and at confectioner Haribo (Pontefract) it increased to eight weeks for staff with two years’ service (the maximum attendance award also increased to £1,000).

Entitlement was extended at DFDS Seaways Short Sea Ratings Company where the existing 90 days at full pay can now be supplemented by a further 90 day’s half-pay (subject to possible review). Freight transport operator Martin Brower’s enhanced long-term sick pay was extended for a further 12-month period.

At Kirklees Council, contractor Suez removed its three “waiting days” (before sick pay is payable); ATM cash machine operator Cardtronics amended its Employee Handbook to be clearer about “manager discretion” over non-payment of company sick pay, giving greater consideration to individual circumstances; and coach manufacturer Optare changed sick pay from a flat rate of £186.80 to salary plus shift allowance.

Other working time

Regular working time was cut at Magna Exteriors (Halewood) (see table); at Carillion (Arriva Rail North), where hours were cut to 37.5 for staff previously working longer; and at Northern Gas Networks, where operational staff reduced to 41.25 hours. The Scottish Government replaced the 42-hour gross week with a 37-hour net week (effectively increasing pay-related premia).

First Essex Buses agreed to reduce the maximum working day by five minutes, while another part of the First Group, First Hampshire and Dorset (Weymouth & Bridport), agreed that 90% of duties will have no driving work any longer than 5 hours 15 minutes. 

Paid break entitlement was improved at Tangerine Confectionery York & Pontefract (see table), Renold Clutches and Couplings (an extra 5 minutes) and Cardiff Bus. 

Flexible working was on the pay agenda at QuEST Global Engineering (see table) while DHL (Virgin West Coast Trains Contract) agreed to take measures to avoid requiring full-time staff to work additional hours except in exceptional circumstances. 

Pay and working time

Improvements in pay additions linked to working time include shift premia, which increased by 4% at Doncaster Forgings (Blaenavon) along with a 2.3% pay rise. At G4S (Lewisham Hospital Patient Transport), a 1.5% across the board pay rise came with an increase of 80 pence an hour for all hours worked between 8pm and 6am. 

At City Cruises, where there was a 2% April pay rise, pay for working Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve increased by 5%. Eurostar International, which had a 1% pay increase, raised the Home to Work Travel allowance by 3.2% (and also enhanced its overtime rate to time and a half). 

While some employers increased their attendance allowances, Carlisle Support Services (Dispatch) Transpennine Express Contract proposed to include the Attendance Bonus into hourly rates, taking pay to £8.83 an hour.

Bargaining around working time issues

Working time related deals in the 2016-17 pay round Main statutory requirements
Working week At Magna Exteriors (Halewood), the working week was cut from 39.5 hours to 38 hours with no loss of pay, under a 2-stage 18-month deal that increased pay by 3% in January. There is an average limit of 48 hours on the working week (subject to the individual “opt out”), which is also effectively limited by minimum daily rest of 11 consecutive hours; weekly or fortnightly rest of 24/48 hours; and the 8-hour night worker limit.
Annual leave Two extra days were agreed at the Co-operative Banking Group in a performance pay deal that raised the lowest basic rate by 2.43% in April. Leave entitlement will now start at 35 days (27 days plus 8 public holidays), stepping up to a total of 38 days after three years. Statutory paid leave of 5.6 weeks (28 days including bank/public holidays, if working a five-day week) includes 4 weeks required by the EU Working Time Directive, for which workers must receive normal wages including regular overtime, commission, shift and other regular payments linked to work.
Breaks Tangerine Confectionery York & Pontefract introduced an extra daily rest break as part of its existing 24-month agreement that also delivered a 2% pay increase in January. Minimum statutory entitlement for adult workers is a break of 20 minutes during working time (which need not be paid) if the working day is more than 6 hours; and “adequate” rest breaks where work is monotonous/the work rate pre-determined.
Maternity leave and pay After the first six weeks at 90%, Mondelez (Cadbury) now pays 65% of earnings plus SMP for seven and a half months (previously 12 weeks) as part of a 3.2% pay increase in March. 26 weeks Ordinary maternity leave (including two compulsory weeks) plus 26 weeks’ Additional maternity leave; 6 weeks Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) at 90% of average weekly earnings plus 33 weeks at £140.98 or 90% of earnings if less (those not eligible for SMP may claim Maternity Allowance).
Paternity leave and pay The existing two-year deal at International Automotive Components (IAC) — JLR Halewood improved paternity pay from the statutory level to 2 weeks at 100% of basic pay (pay rose by 3.5% in June). One or two weeks’ Ordinary paternity leave taken in a single block of either one week or two; Statutory Paternity Pay is £140.98 a week (or 90% of average weekly earnings if less) paid during the leave. This right is separate from Shared Parental Leave.
Adoption leave and pay The Police Staff Council handbook was revised in April (separately from the 1% pay increase) and increased adoption pay from six weeks at 9/10ths of full pay to 18 weeks at full pay (for employees with one years’ service). 26 weeks’ Ordinary adoption leave plus 26 weeks’ Additional adoption leave. Six weeks’ Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) at 90% of primary adopter’s averagge earnings, followed by 33 week’s SAP at £140.98 or 90% of average weekly earnings if less. Only one parent can take adoption leave, but their partner may qualify for paternity leave and pay. Adoption leave can be shared.
Shared Parental Leave Under its August 2016 pay deal, Highlands & Islands Enterprise enhanced Shared Parental Leave to the same level as occupational Maternity leave, which increased from 26 to 27 weeks’ full pay and 12 weeks’ statutory maternity pay Mothers must take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave (four weeks for factory workers) but can share up to 50 weeks’ leave with thier partner. Shared parental pay is £140.98 a week (90% of salary if less) capped at 39 weeks, less statutory maternity pay or allowance already paid. There is a separate right to unpaid Parental Leave.
Family emergencies George Best Belfast City Airport increased compassionate leave from three to five working days as part of a 2% February pay deal. Entitlement to “reasonable” unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving parents, children, a spouse/co-habitee or anyone who looks to the employee for assistance.
Flexible working At QuEST Global Engineering, the flexible working agreement was changed to remove core hours (hours are now agreed on a case by case basis). The right to request to work flexibly is available to any employee with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service.
Sick Pay Carillion (Arriva Rail North) introduced company sick pay in September 2016 for around 85% of the workforce who weren’t previously entitled (it progressively increases over five years to 13 weeks on full pay). Qualifying employees who are not eligible for occupational sick pay are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay of £89.35 a week for a maximum of 28 weeks.