Agenda item

Human Resources and Payroll Team Update


The Head of HR and OD presented the report to the Committee.


The Chairman said that this was a good report and again praised Officers for their hard work on the implementation of the new rates of pay. The Chairman asked if the East Herts Together initiative had been continuing as planned and whether the timeframe allotted for the staff survey was realistic given the various challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Head of HR and OD conveyed his thanks in particular to Gill Coleman, Payroll Manager, for her hard work. The East Herts Together initiative had been continuing as planned despite some earlier difficulties. The staff survey had recently been discussed with the Leadership Team (LT). It was proposed that the staff survey would be combined with a further survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and working remotely on staff. It had become clear since the last survey that some staff had been struggling. The combined survey would be conducted in December, with the questions to be finalised in consultation with LT. The last well-being survey had a 93% response rate, which HR wanted to capitalise on. This survey would also allow HR to follow up with staff on any negative feedback, which had not been possible after previous anonymised staff surveys.


Councillor Bull asked whether the proposal to make ten Hertford Theatre staff redundant was wise, especially in view of the recent extension of the furlough scheme, and said the Council may benefit by retaining these staff. He also questioned the proposal to re-assign the staff to COVID-19 marshal roles for the remainder of their employment, given that this could potentially put staff at risk due to anti-lockdown sentiment amongst some.


The Head of HR and OD said there had been some further consideration given to this since the report was written as some staff had expressed concerns over this role, although they would not be put at risk. It had been recognised that some staff’s skillset would not be best suited to this role, so alternative administrative roles had been considered for some. The furlough scheme did not totally negate the proposal as there was still a cost to the Council under this scheme. If staff were redeployed, they would receive 100% of their pay. These proposals were still subject to change during the consultation period.


The Infrastructure Contributions and Spend Manager, as Unison Branch Secretary, said UNISON would work collaboratively to ensure that any redeployments were mutually beneficial to the Council and the employees. The situation in relation to the pandemic and the furlough scheme was fast-moving. Whilst UNISON understood the difficult decisions to be made in relation to Hertford Theatre, it would work to ensure Officers were protected as far as possible.


Councillor Dumont asked whether the staff that had been furloughed would be allowed to continue with this in light of the scheme’s extension.


The Head of HR and OD said that this was still to be considered as the extension of the scheme had only been announced recently. However, the furlough scheme would likely only stave off redundancies, some of which had been inevitable due to the restructuring of Hertford Theatre and the impending closure to allow refurbishment works. Presently, redeployment was favoured as there were roles which the Council needed to fill and this would mean staff remained on full pay and could potentially secure a permanent position in a new area.


Councillor Alder asked whether under the furlough scheme the Council were paying 20% off staff wages with Central Government paying 80%. She also asked how many staff had been participating in the daily mindfulness sessions.


The Head of HR and OD said until August employers paid staff 80% of their wages and then claimed this back from Central Government, including national insurance and pension contributions. However, the right to reclaim national insurance and pension contributions had then been curbed. Theatre staff had initially been asked if they preferred to be furloughed or redeployed. All but one staff member chose to be furloughed on 80% pay. The Head of HR and OD said he did not have exact attendance figures for the mindfulness sessions, but was aware they had been popular.


The Infrastructure Contributions and Spend Manager said she had attended the mindfulness sessions and found them very useful. She also assured Members that a meeting between herself and the Head of HR and OD was due to take place and the permutations of the furlough extension would be discussed.


The Chairman said she was reassured by the hardworking and caring nature of the HR Officers.


The Head of HR and OD thanked the Chairman for this praise and reiterated that HR would continue to support staff as much as possible, including Hertford Theatre staff.


Councillor Newton asked for further information on the mindfulness sessions. The Head of HR and OD agreed to provide this to Members following the meeting at the suggestion of the Chairman.


Councillor Dumont said he was happy to see the budget limit on the cycle to work scheme had been doubled. Exercise was important in supporting staff’s well-being.


The Head of HR and OD said this increase had partly been agreed to allow staff to purchase electric bicycles, but there would still certainly be benefits in supporting staff well-being as well as contributing to sustainability targets.


RESOLVED – that the report be noted.


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