PSA members Bulletin – Dispute update

iCare dispute update - July 2020 (pdf version)

The PSA attended a compulsory conference as the first stage of our dispute with iCare regarding concerns that we have raised in relation to member’s access to their flexible working hours agreement and recent communications to members about Recreation/Annual leave balances at or above 20 days.

At this time the Commission has encouraged the parties to meet to discuss how this can be resolved, which will occur on Thursday 9th July.

While the PSA did not get the clear direction from the Commission that we were seeking which was to remove any discussion about Recreation leave balances at 20 days the Commission did make clear that iCare could only have ‘discussions’ with its staff.

While iCare can discuss Recreation Leave balances with, you ARE NOT required to have a Recreation Leave plan that reduces your balance below 20 days. If you receive a direction to do so, ask for this direction in writing, and forward such a direction to the PSA.

The PSA is pleased that iCare have distributed communication to staff on Monday 6th July stating “To be clear, we’re not requiring people with between 20 and 30 days of accrued leave to take their excess leave”

Why is this important?

Your Award, the Insurance and Care NSW Award 2017, contains your working conditions. These conditions are not given to you, they are fought for and won in negotiations between the PSA and iCare.  Any attempt to water down those conditions, even if it doesn’t directly affect you, must be defended and resisted.  Your Award conditions are reproduced below; they may assist in “discussions” you have surrounding your leave balances.

68.2.3    The appropriate People Leader shall notify the staff member in writing when accrued recreation leave reaches 6 weeks or its hourly equivalent and at the same time may direct a staff member to take at least 2 weeks recreation leave within 3 months of the notification at a time convenient to ICARE.

68.2.4    The appropriate People Leader shall notify the staff member in writing when accrued recreation leave reaches 8 weeks or its hourly equivalent and direct the staff member to take at least 2 weeks recreation leave within 6 weeks of the notification. Such leave is to be taken at a time convenient to the ICARE.

68.2.5    A staff member must take their recreation leave to reduce all balances below 8 weeks or its hourly equivalent, and the ICARE must cooperate in this process. ICARE may direct a staff member with more than 8 weeks to take their recreation leave so that it reduces to below 8 weeks.

68.3    Conservation of Leave – If the appropriate People Leader is satisfied that a staff member is prevented by operational or personal reasons from taking sufficient recreation leave to reduce the accrued leave below an acceptable level of between 4 and 6 weeks or its hourly equivalent, the appropriate People Leader shall:-

68.3.1    Specify in writing the period of time during which the excess shall be conserved; and

68.3.2    On the expiration of the period during which conservation of leave applies, grant sufficient leave to the staff member at a mutually convenient time to enable the accrued leave to be reduced to an acceptable level below the 8 week limit.

68.3.3    An appropriate People Leader will inform a staff member in writing on a regular basis of the staff member’s recreation leave accrual.

You will note that the Award states that the only direction to reduce Recreation leave starts at 30 days, not 20.  Furthermore, Clause 68.3 clearly states that an acceptable level of Recreation leave is between 4 and 6 weeks (20 – 30 days).

Christmas Closedown

The same also goes to the communication that members have received in relation to the Christmas – New Year closedown and that they will be required to take leave from 25 December 2020 – 8 January 2021.

The PSA encourages members to regularly take Recreation Leave for their own health and welfare and Christmas and the New Year are a great time to do so.  However, unless you have an excess Recreation leave balance of 30 days, you cannot be directed to take Recreation leave, and you cannot be directed to take extended (long service) leave or leave without pay, or pressured to purchase leave under any circumstance.

If iCare are closing down during these dates, and you wish to work, a reasonable alternative work arrangement must be made available for you. If practicable, this could include working from home for some or all of that time. You may have to work at a different location, but you cannot be expected to travel unreasonable distances and you may be entitled to be reimbursed for the additional cost of your travel.

PSA Direction

The PSA provides the following direction to its members:

Members are reminded that any discussion surrounding Recreation leave levels for people with less than 30 days is for discussion purposes only and there should be no direction to take leave.

Further, while the PSA will always encourage staff to take their Recreation leave simply on the grounds of a healthy work/life balance and as a Work Health and Safety issue, we also recognise that there are times when members will want to accrue their Recreation leave to the maximum allowable amount.

If members feel that they are being pressured into making arrangements that do not suit them to reduce their leave balances beneath 30 days or take leave when not suitable then you should contact the PSA.

Flexible Working Hours Agreement

PSA Delegates still have a significant concern that the current approval process in place through the Group Leadership Team (GLT) for staff to work more than seven (7) hours a day is causing major problems for those areas where staff members are taking recreation leave for school holidays, as People Leaders cannot manage their teams to compensate for this – as would normally be the case.

It is the PSA’s expectation after assurances from iCare that access to and operation of the FWHA will return to normal from the next settlement period commencing 20 July 2020. However, that does not address this immediate problem caused by school holidays so this is now part of our further discussions with iCare management to look for an interim solution.

The PSA will provide a further report back to members following our discussions on Thursday 9 July 2020.

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