July 2021

The UK Government’s delay in lifting restrictions that were due in England in June meant a delay in changes at the bank too.

The good news was that we got confirmation that paid emergency leave for COVID related absences would continue.

That’s meant you’ve not had to worry about getting paid if you’ve had to self-isolate, go for a test or get your jabs during work time.  COVID related absences don’t count against your occupational sickness leave or pay either. 

That was the right thing for a good employer to do and we applaud Lloyds Banking Group for its decision.

But the UK PM’s announcement earlier this week of a wholesale lifting of restrictions in England from 19th July changes the landscape somewhat.  Just as cases are once again rising daily, the plan, as we understand it, is (amongst other things) to:
  • Remove all remaining limits on social contact with no more restrictions on how many people can meet in any setting, indoors or outdoors
  • Lift the legal requirements to wear a face covering in all settings
  • Scrap all social distancing rules, and
  • No longer instruct people to work from home

We don’ think this is a safe strategy and we’ll be campaigning hard to maintain some of the important safeguards that are currently in place in LBG.

Straight after the PM’s announcement, we urged the bank not to act swiftly but to engage with Accord as it considers how best to react.  And it has.  A couple of meetings have already taken place, with more to follow.

Whilst we all want the economy to unlock as soon as possible, it’s vital that people returning to work have confidence that their workplaces are as Covid-secure as possible.  And the health and safety of those colleagues who have continued to go to work throughout the pandemic – many of them facing the public every day – must remain a priority.

It will be tricky to work things through – the divided opinion about mask wearing alone has been tough to ‘police’ when it’s been the law.  Removing the legal constraint can only make things worse.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to foresee potential flash points.

But we’re fully engaged with the business on this and all other health and safety measures.  At the same time, we’re making the case for an extension to the emergency leave policy to keep some underpinning of your pay if you’re infected or having to self-isolate. 

Whilst we’ve got your attention – there are a few other matters we want to update you on too.  Scroll down for the subject headings you’re interested in.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support.

Long Covid-19
We’ve all heard about it, but how much do we really know about long Covid?  And how will you be treated at work if you develop the illness?  Read our help centre article to find out more.
 
This leaflet from Occupational Health Professionals on how to manage getting back to work after Covid-19 infection and Long Covid-19 is also worth a read. 
 
Like the Trades Union Congress, Accord believes that long Covid-19 should be specified in law as a disability.  The TUC is lobbying the government to strengthen the Equality Act 2010 in this regard.  In tandem, we’re asking LBG not to wait for legislation but to lead from the front and recognise it as a disability so that long Covid related leave is recorded separately from sick leave, recognising that some workers who have long Covid may have different and higher forms of sickness absence.
Been contacted by the NHS test and trace app?
There’s some confusion about what you must do if you’re contacted by the test and trace app and told to self-isolate.
 
At the moment, you must follow current government advice which is that you must self-isolate for the number of days specified and continue to complete the isolation period even if you get a negative PCR or lateral flow test result in the meantime.
 
But be aware, the government guidelines are being reviewed and it’s proposed that from 16th August, double jabbed individuals and under 18s will no longer need to self-isolate if they’re identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19.
Travelling further to work than you used to?
We’re getting more and more queries from staff being asked to travel further distances to work.  Mainly in the branch network where a recent restructure has changed the geography and resourcing of areas and pools.  Whilst the bank currently pays a travel cost allowance to those eligible, it runs out after 12 months so leaving staff out of pocket – some by a substantial amount. 
 
We’ve been lobbying LBG to do something about the unfairness of the current policy for some time and joint talks will start soon.  To support our position, please take a few minutes to complete this survey.  It’s not just for branch staff – if you work in a large site or office and have been moved by the bank in the last 12 months then we want to hear from you too.  (Note: if you moved branch/site/office for your own reasons, you don’t qualify for the travel cost allowance and should not complete this survey).
Work in a branch?  What expenses can you claim if you travel between branches in a pool?
We want to put the record straight on this one …
 
Every colleague has a single base branch on Workday and no-one is expected to work at any other branch in their pool without being reimbursed for reasonable additional travel costs.
 
When you work away from your base branch, additional reasonable travel costs are payable and can include (but are not limited to) public transport fares, car mileage, car parking charges. This applies to all colleagues in branch including managers and on-call staff. For example – if it costs you £5 to travel from home to your base location and £10 to travel from home to the branch you’re asked to support, £5 is recoverable through an expense claim.
 
If you’re asked to cover another branch within your pool, then an appropriate discussion should take place between you and your line manager about any additional travel time and costs. 
 
If you want to chat to us about your individual situation, get in touch with the officer who supports your workplace (details at the end of the newsletter by postcode).
Branch on-call staff – getting you a better deal
Talks are about to start on how the current on-call working arrangements can be improved.  We’ve emailed all on-call members we know about asking them to take part in a survey so we can be sure we’re representing the views of the people who actually do the job.  If you’re an on-call member and haven’t heard from us, drop a quick email to [email protected] and ask for a copy of the questionnaire.
Staffing problems in branches
Back in May we asked members in the branch network to let us know what their main concerns were about lockdown easing. From the responses it was clear that some were really struggling due to staff shortages. 
 
Through our regular engagement with the branch network senior leadership team, every situation that was drawn to our attention has now been looked at by the business and solutions are being worked through.  We’ll be writing to those members who got in touch to let them know what’s being considered for their particular branch.
 
With the number of infections and those being required to self-isolate rising, coupled with the arrival of the holiday season, resourcing is only going to get tighter and more difficult to manage.  But what must come first is your health and safety.  If you’re worried about staffing levels in your branch and want some help or advice, get in touch with the officer who covers your workplace – see end of newsletter for details (by postcode).
Customer Services – temp to perm contracts
For some time now we’ve been pressing the bank to introduce a policy of moving TTP workers to a permanent contract no later than 12 months after starting in role.  We’ve had some success over the last few years but there’s still work to be done.  We’ve asked Customer Services to look at those colleagues who are longest in role and will return to this subject in August 2021 when customer behaviour and the impact on call volumes/workloads is, hopefully, clearer as we emerge from current restrictions.
Customer abuse
Over the last 15 months this subject has become more of an issue as members have had to deal with customers in branches on reduced opening hours and with social distancing in place and over the phone when lengthy queues to get through make matters worse. 
 
LBG has good guidance on how to deal with abusive customers but it’s clear that not everyone follows it for a variety of reasons including “it’s just part of the job”. 
 
It’s not part of the job and you’re not paid to take abuse from anyone.
 
Our members tell us that handling the aftermath of abuse in a site or branch is one thing (when you’re surrounded by like-minded people who understand what’s happened and why you may need to cool off after a bad interaction) but it’s different at home because whether you’re alone or have family with you, no-one expects to be abused in their safe place or in front of family.
 
We’ve been speaking to the Group about how we can work together to improve support for colleagues and how LBG can react more quickly to disconnect from customers who are abusers.
 
Initially we’re working with Customer Services on some changes that will be piloted in one or more sites.  We’re also supporting the Customer Services Institute in lobbying government for the creation of a standalone criminal offence for the abuse of retail workers.
D & E grading changes
We got a fair bit of feedback from our Newsflash that went out on 25th June.  We’ll use it in our further discussion with the bank.  But we wanted to clarify a few things in the meantime:-
 
The Uppers and Lowers have always been treated as one grade under the Job Security Policy.  Approximately 85% of those in grades D and E were Uppers and, in a process of simplification to reduce the number of grades (including grades H, J and the first Executive grade), the decision was taken to merge the Upper and Lower levels.

We worked hard to ensure that nobody would be worse off at the point of the change but the change itself is only a first step – not the end point.

Pay progression, salary management, in grade promotions and fair pay amongst peers carrying out similarly sized roles are all things that will continue to be worked on and further guidance will be issued. The managers of grade D & E colleagues won’t be left to work it out for themselves.

If you’re impacted by the decision and want the opportunity to hear a bit more about the discussions and an opportunity to put your questions direct to Accord’s senior negotiators, send an email to [email protected] with the subject D&E grading.  Once we know how many members want to attend, we’ll sort out the arrangements for a digital meeting.
 
My Accord magazine - help us to help you
Since Covid-19 began, we've continued to produce our My Accord magazine but as an online publication.

The last issue was sent to members on 24th June - you can view it online here.

We're now gathering feedback on the magazine to help us shape what we do in the future, and to improve our membership offering.

We really appreciate your views, and to say thank you, we're giving everyone that takes part in the survey the opportunity to win one of 5 cash prizes (4x £25 prizes & 1x £100 prize).

Complete the survey by 5pm on Tuesday 20th July to be in with the chance to win.
Share your views now
BWC: Understanding grief & supporting bereaved colleagues webinar
On Friday 6th August, we're teaming up with the Bank Workers Charity for a webinar to explore grief and supporting those who are bereaved. We'll cover:
  • What grief is, and the different ways it affects people
  • What you can do and say to be supportive
  • The well-meaning but unhelpful things to avoid doing or saying
This one-hour event will be hosted by Accord through the Microsoft Teams platform. The session will start at 11:05am but participants are encouraged to join a few minutes before. 

Unable to attend? Register to receive the recording.
Book your place
Growing back better …
The past 18 months have been difficult for Accord as an independent union.  We’ve continued to lose members who have left the Group through resignation, redundancy or retirement and we’ve not had as many new members as we need join us due to the restrictions in place, curtailed recruitment in the Group and the fact that many of our reps have been working from home.
 
If you know a colleague who isn’t yet a member of Accord or Unite, tell them about the important work we do on their behalf and ask them to join you in supporting us.
 
We’ll give them free membership for 3 months and donate £10 to the Trussell Trust to support foodbanks for every new member who joins us before the end of July.
 
They can join online here using the code 3FREE when the sign up.
 
Thank you for supporting your union through these difficult and unprecedented times.
Accord officers
Paula Tegg
07976 291 468
[email protected]

Assistant General Secretary (Operations)
 
Sue Johnson
(available: Tue, Wed, Thu)
07500 841 573
[email protected]

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Chris Rimell
07506 540 325
[email protected]


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John Dickinson
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Krisna Lakhani
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Alison Thoburn
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Jim Fielding
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Dave Matthews
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Russell Waterhouse
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accordhq.org


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