After almost two years of campaigning, the FDA has won overtime payment for Grade 6 and Grade 7 Government Legal Department (GLD) staff.
This will be the first time Grade 6 staff have received this compensation. Previously, Grade 7 staff could only claim overtime payment after working 30 excess hours. This has now been reduced to 15.
The FDA’s campaign for GLD staff started in 2016, when the union demanded the department’s “antiquated” overtime and Time off in Lieu (TOIL) policy be reviewed.
Since then, the union has called on GLD to end the opt-out of the 48 hours Working Time Directive; to give properly paid voluntary overtime; and to enable a flexible approach to working hours. The FDA persuaded the GLD People Committee to put a proposal enabling Grade 6 and 7 staff to claim overtime in Spring 2018, but this was rejected on the grounds that it “would not support the culture of diversity and inclusion and good work life balance that [the department] wants to promote”, and that it “could discriminate against colleagues who have caring or other responsibilities”.
However, GLD Permanent Secretary Jonathan Jones agreed to meet with the FDA GLD branch convenor Leila Kelly and National Officer Simon Hardcastle to discuss concerns. Meanwhile, the branch urged members to get help make the case by spreading the word about the campaign, writing to HR and recording their hours.
Finally, in December, Jones announced that GLD reconsidered its initial position and would bring in Grade 6 and 7 overtime “with immediate effect”. This would be paid at time and a half for weekdays and double time for weekends.
Though this was in itself a significant victory, the FDA continued to negotiate with the employer over the treatment of part-time employees. Initially, these individuals would have received no extra compensation until they worked 15 extra hours – doing full time work for as little as half pay.
Thanks to this union intervention, it was decided part-time staff would be compensated at plain rate for all extra hours up to their full-time equivalent. After this they, like their full-time colleagues, will be paid time and a half, or double time on weekends.
“The long hours culture and refusal to pay overtime meant that FDA members were working six days a week but paid for only five,” said Simon Hardcastle. “Paying people for the actual hours they work is a first step in the right direction to fairness and equality and this achievement is down to the FDA’s campaign.”
The National Officer recognises, however, that the work is not yet done. “The next step is to remove the requirement to gift 15 hours each month before staff qualify for overtime. GLD staff must have gifted over a million free hours since the first piece of Brexit related legislation — The European Union Referendum Act — received Royal Assent on 17 December 2015. Enough is enough for working pro bono in GLD.”
The FDA is asking all members in GLD to have conversations with their managers about working overtime in their business area and to ensure they are being paid correctly.
If you are a member who does this and experiences any resistance, please get in touch with your workplace rep immediately.