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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 14 December, 2015

Report of the Leader

Review of the annual leave purchase scheme and voluntary reduction in working hours scheme

Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide Cabinet with an update of the annual leave purchase scheme and to seek authority to implement the scheme on a continuing annual basis.
  2. To provide Cabinet with an update of the voluntary reduction in working hours scheme and to seek authority to continue the scheme on an ongoing basis.

Recommendations

  1. That Cabinet notes the successful results of the trial of the annual leave purchase scheme and approves the re-launch of the scheme, as set out in Appendix A, for 2016/2017 and on an annual basis thereafter.
  2. That Cabinet notes the results of the voluntary reduction in working hours scheme and approves that the scheme, as set out in Appendix B, continues on an ongoing basis.
  3. That delegated authority is given to the Head of Human Resources, in consultation with the Leader of the Council, to make any amendments to the schemes (as referred to in 1 and 2 above) in future years.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To help contribute to current savings targets across all service areas and increase flexibility for both the Council's Services as well as employees.
  2. To help support a flexible working environment and contribute to the current savings targets across all service areas.
  3. To support the continued refinement of the two schemes in future years.

Background

  1. The trial of an annual leave purchase scheme and the implementation of the voluntary reduction in working hours scheme was approved by Cabinet on 23rd March 2015 to respond to the continuing budget challenges faced by the Council.
  2. The annual leave purchase scheme enables employees to voluntarily increase their annual leave allowance by buying additional leave (subject to certain conditions). The main advantage being that the scheme offers a flexible, employee benefit whilst also providing financial savings for the Council.
  3. The annual leave purchase scheme was open for applications between 1st April 2015 and 15th May 2015, and employees could request to purchase either 5 or 10 days additional annual leave (pro rata for part-time employees). The cost of purchasing these days was then repaid in equal monthly instalments over the period June 2015 to March 2016 (10 months).
  4. A copy of the scheme can be found in Appendix A. It was agreed that following the trial, a further report be referred to Cabinet to enable Members to consider the impact, benefits and feedback on the scheme with a view to implementing the scheme on an annual basis.
  5. The voluntary reduction in working hours scheme provides employees with the opportunity to apply for flexible working (subject to certain eligibility criteria) to suit their personal circumstances. A copy of the scheme can be found in Appendix B.

Relevant Issues and Options

Annual Leave Purchase Scheme

  1. 132 employees took the opportunity to purchase additional annual leave this year. 17% of these purchased 10 days annual leave (pro rata for part-time employees based on their contracted hours) and the remaining 83% purchased 5 days (pro rata for part-time employees).
  2. 22% of those who originally requested the purchase of 10 days annual leave (pro rata for part-time employees), had their requests declined due to operational reasons. These employees were all able to purchase 5 days annual leave.
  3. 77% of applications to purchase annual leave were received from female employees and 23% were from male employees. Many of those who provided feedback commented on the opportunity to use the additional leave for achieving a work/life balance and childcare.
  4. A consultation exercise was undertaken, requesting feedback from participants on the scheme and also from their managers. The resulted in an overwhelmingly positive response to the scheme from participants. The review has taken account of feedback, particularly in relation to the promotion of the scheme and the number of monthly repayments. A summary of this feedback can be found in Appendix C.
  5. If Members agree the recommendation to continue the annual leave purchase scheme, a promotional exercise will be undertaken to publicise the scheme for application from 1st April 2016.
  6. Employees will be able to apply to participate in the scheme between January and February (inclusive of the time taken for managers to review and respond to the applications) each year. Applications will be processed in time for deductions to start in April, with repayments being made in 12 equal monthly instalments.

Voluntary Reduction in Working Hours

  1. The voluntary reduction in working hours scheme was introduced in April 2015, as part of an overall framework agreement reached with the recognised trade unions.
  2. The scheme provides employees with the opportunity to apply for flexible working and in particular to reduce their working hours, to suit their personal circumstances. This, in turn will help contribute to current savings targets.
  3. Over the last year some14 employees have applied to reduce their hours through the voluntary reduction in working hours scheme and such applications have been accepted. This has resulted in a potential total reduction in 93.1 hours per week.
  4. The voluntary reduction in working hours scheme supplements the range of flexible working arrangements that are currently in place for employees of the Council: Flex time scheme; Flexible Working Requests and Procedure for Flexible Working Including Saturday and/or Sunday Working.
  5. It is difficult to determine the savings specific to this scheme as employees may have changed their working hours through a different route, which are not tracked. However, Members will be aware that the principle of promoting a flexible work environment enables employees to effectively balance their home/work life and work demands, regardless of the scheme used to achieve it.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The trial of the annual leave purchase scheme will, over the course of the current financial year result in a projected saving of £91,769 to the Council.
  2. The above saving will be achieved through a reduction in salary costs, contributions for National Insurance and, in some cases, a reduction in pension contributions (where the employee is a member of the pension scheme). The amount of tax and national insurance that participating employees will pay will also be reduced, due to their salary being reduced over the period.
  3. Based on the initial popularity, it is anticipated that these savings will increase during 2016/17. The Council will have a longer time period to advertise and promote the scheme and applicants will have a longer period to make application. As indicated applicants will also have a longer period over which to make the repayments.
  4. As part of the review, some understandable concerns were raised about the impact of the scheme on service continuity. Such issues will need to be reviewed during the year. It will remain the responsibility of supervisors to manage and accommodate the application and use of annual leave to manage any difficulties.
  5. For 2016/17 it is hoped, that the above concern will be partly mitigated by the earlier planning and promotion of the scheme.
  6. With regard to the voluntary reduction in working hours scheme, very modest savings have been made (in the region of £1,500). The scheme has however given services the ability to work more flexibly with their employees, whilst also contributing to budget savings. It continues to be a positive means to help employees effectively achieve a work/life balance.
  7. The administration of both schemes has been absorbed by the Human Resources/TransAct service.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no sustainability or climate change implications directly arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. There are no legal implications directly arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no crime and disorder implications directly arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The annual leave purchase scheme and voluntary reduction in working hours have been subject to an equality impact assessment which shows a positive impact for employees. The ability for workers to access opportunities to manage their work and external/ family/personal circumstances and work life balance will contribute to the Council's equality obligations as an employer.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The scheme seeks to support the delivery of service objectives set out in the Corporate Plan 2013/17 and individual service plans by offering flexible employee benefits and engaging with a committed workforce.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The Trade Unions have been consulted on and support the annual leave purchase scheme and voluntary reduction in working hours scheme. They have been provided with the summary of feedback from the trial schemes.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Resources

Background Papers               

Appendix A - Annual leave purchase scheme

Appendix B - Voluntary reduction in working hours scheme

Appendix C - Annual leave purchase scheme feedback

Contact Officer

Adrian Unsworth, Operational Manager Human Resources 01446 709359

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Managing Director

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