PRCS redeployment adjudication sets new standards

Wednesday 20th July 2011

An independent adjudication report on the first ‘essential’ staff redeployments under the Croke Park agreement could help establish standards for handling similar situations in other parts of the public service. It also made recommendations for handling future appeals against compulsory redeployment.

The report relates to 23 individual appeals over redeployment to a new centralised location for administering medical card applications. After 80 staff agreed to redeploy voluntarily, the HSE needed 70 more staff to move to the new operation in north Dublin.

IMPACT, which represents most of the staff, won ten of the 23 appeals. The union highlighted the individual circumstances of appellants, including family commitments, commuting times and additional costs, It also made a general case that management had moved to compulsory redeployment without properly exhausting the voluntary option.

IMPACT national secretary for health & welfare Louise O’Donnell said the comprehensive adjudication report would likely set standards for other redeployment appeals. “There is no guarantee that its recommended criteria will be applied across sectors, but it would seem to provide a useful template for managing redeployment and future appeals,” she said.

Criteria

The Croke Park agreement sets out parameters for any compulsory redeployment. While there are slight but significant differences between redeployment arrangements in different sectors, the main points in the health agreement include:

  • That redeployment must be for one or more of the specific reasons allowed, and set out, in the agreement
  • Volunteers must be sought first
  • If there aren’t enough volunteers, staff must normally be selected on the basis of length of service, subject to skills requirements
  • Staff are entitled to apply for vacancies within their own grade, category or profession, and suitability should be judged on criteria set out in the agreement
  • Promotional posts can only be obtained through competition
  • Redeployment may not always be to the same role or grade
  • An individual’s existing terms and conditions of employment are protected
  • Staff can’t be redeployed more than 45 kilometres from their home or work address, whichever is the shorter commute (in some cases, concerning specialist posts, relocations of further distances can be considered)
  • There must be a ‘reasonable daily commute time’
  • The guidelines don’t preclude further distances for employees who wish to redeploy to a location or service of their choice.

In clarifications of the agreement, which were sought and received by IMPACT prior to its national ballot last year, the Labour Relations Commission added that redeployment must be conducted in a “reasonable manner” with “due regard for personal circumstances.” It also said that “serial redeployments” should not normally happen and that the first location would determine distances in cases where staff were redeployed more than once.

Additional standards

The new adjudication report also says the process “should be characterised by:”

  • Full and proper consultation involving managers and staff, both at the current and receiving location, in addition to consultation with unions
  • Active management of the process as it progresses
  • A communications plan identifying communications with staff, unions and other managers
  • Clear, transparent criteria that reflect the agreement’s aspirations
  • Realistic timescales for informing and redeploying the staff involved
  • A written plan to address concerns expressed by individuals being redeployed. This should address family and personal impacts, commuting times and potential additional costs “where necessary and appropriate”
  • Identification of flexible working arrangements “to the greatest extent possible”
  • The use of interim arrangements for staff who have to make new arrangements for child care or family commitments
  • Honouring of booked annual, parental or similar leave.

The adjudicator also made comments on the issue of ‘reasonable commuting times” and acknowledged the affect that relocation has on staff, particularly lower paid women with family responsibilities. They used Central Statistics Office data on commuting lengths and times. “This was done not to provide a perfect template…but to give a sense of what is normal and/or abnormal in such matters,” they said.

Future appeals

The adjudicator also recommended a procedure to ensure that future appeals hearings “provide an opportunity for the appellants to make their case” and ensure that hearings are “fair and meaningful.” They said that, prior to future adjudications, each person should be:

  • Informed verbally by their managers before or at the time of receipt of a formal letter, which should set out the details of the redeployment and identify a named person to contact about it
  • Met by an operational manager and a HR officer to address concerns about the criteria
  • Given a written plan of measures to address or minimise their concerns, as far as possible. This should also address skills or training requirements

It also said that, if management feels that it would be unreasonable to proceed with redeployment, they should make and record that decision and inform the individual.

They said future appeals should be forwarded to the adjudicator accompanied by the written plan to address or minimise the workers’ concerns.

Read the full adjudication HERE.