AXA EWC meets in Paris

The AXA European Works Council, with union representatives from AXA operations in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain and the UK is being held in Paris.

The UK delegates are asking Group President Thomas Burberl questions on employee burn-out, surveillance of employees working from home and ethical insurance underwriting.

Unite call for Covid protocols to be reinstated…

Following the announcement by the Government over the weekend re-introducing some of the Covid-19 protocols from earlier in the year, namely the use of masks in shops and on public transport, Unite in AXA have called on the company to reinstate some of its own.

Whilst the Government has not mandated the wearing of masks in offices it is somewhat incongruous that an employee has to wear a mask to get to work but has no requirement to do so when in work. We have asked AXA to reinstate the rule that when employees get up from their desk, that they should put on a mask to help protect their colleagues.

Also, whilst the requirement to work form home has not been reintroduced yet, we are asking the company to ensure that when staff are required to go in to the office, that there is some valid business reason, and is not just an arbitrary requirement to ensure an employee has been in the office a set number of days, regardless of any need for them to do so.

Hopefully these measures will help in the ingoing battle against Covid and help reduce the spread of the virus in the run up to Xmas.

Do I Still Have To Wear A Mask?

Following Claudio’s email to all staff yesterday evening we have been asked can AXA insist that employees wear a mask in the office after 19th July “as it is no longer a legal requirement?”

Short answer is yes.

At no point has it actually been a legal requirement in England for staff working in an office to wear a mask. Those legal requirements were restricted to retail and hospitality. 

However AXA UK decided that when staff were away from their desk they should put a mask on to protect other employees. They are perfectly within their rights to do this as they need to make sure they are protecting all workers’ health and safety and wearing a mask protects others.

We appreciate some individuals may be unhappy with this but AXA has legal obligations to protect workers and this is one way they will be doing so in the immediate future. Refusal to comply with company instructions could well result in disciplinary action so please continue to put on your mask if you are in the office and away from your desk.

Options in Travel Claims…

Since the announcement that AXA had lost the Lloyds contract back in March it has been an extremely worrying time for many members working in that business area. Whilst TUPE job protections exist the ability for the them to be utilised effectively can often be dependent on whether the new employer is geographically local to the existing one. In this case the new company, Allianz, and the jobs, are based in Croydon.

Pre-pandemic unless an individual wished to move to a new town the normal end result would be redundancy if a redeployment could not be found in the existing company they were working for. However the fact that for the last 16 months staff working on the Lloyds contract have successfully managed to do so from home has proven that it is not a pre-requisite that staff need to work in an office (whether that be in Ipswich or Croydon).

This new reality formed the basis of our consultation with AXA and they took this position to Allianz who have re-looked at their original assumptions and agreed that a new way of working is one that they can adopt.

This offers the opportunity for a large number of AXA staff to transfer to Allianz whilst continuing to work mainly from home.

As staff in Travel Claims will now know following the follow up announcement on Monday from management that moving forward will not be straight forward. 

Allianz want to recruit some workers prior to the official handover in November and whilst those jobs will be offered to AXA employees in the affected population in the first instance this does fall outside the remit of TUPE legislation which will cover those who move over in November. 

Additionally there is the run off of the remaining Travel Claims operation which will see that business taken over by AXA Assistance in Redhill or by other companies. TUPE legislation will need to be taken into account as and when this happens.

Additionally there also should be jobs within AXA Insurance available for employees to apply for.

Whilst this is a complicated situation with different phases and staff put into different ‘pods’ dependent on the impact on them of the Lloyds loss, the good news is that a lot of jobs will be preserved (inside and outside of AXA) and we are hopeful that the number of compulsory redundancies now will be very minimal.

We appreciate that the amount of information provided by the company on Monday is daunting and we would urge members looking for clarity or with concerns to speak to the local unions reps in Ipswich who are on hand to help.

Unite will soon be engaging with Allianz directly for consultation and negotiation regarding the terms and conditions of the AXA staff who apply for jobs and start with to Allianz in September and those who will transfer under TUPE in November and we will update you on that once those meetings have concluded.

Commercial re-introduce flexitime…

Members in AXA Commercial will have seen that flexitime (re-branded banked hours) will be reintroduced in their business area from the 1st July. It has been almost 15 months since the operation suspended flexitime and employees unable to bank excess hours. We are glad to see that the situation has now changed and those members working unpaid excess hours will now be able to bank them or take time off in lieu.

The consultation over this has been protracted and intense with many differing viewpoints being put forward. It is no secret that some people would like to see flexitime removed, whereas we know it is an extremely valuable benefit to our members.

Since Commercial published its principles of how it was looking to reintroduce flexible working we have been inundated with feedback from members. The main areas of concern were the pre-booking of flexitime and what would happen to excess hours worked that had not been pre-booked. A smaller amount of feedback revolved around the reduction in potential flexidays to 6.

Pre-booking flexitime: somewhat ironically this is not a new rule and was introduced in 2013 when the first flexitime charters were rolled out. Despite being in the site charters it appears very few managers applied the rule. Our view was that if it was not broke, don’t fix it. Management’s view is that its application going forward with be ‘light touch’ which is a bit nebulous but if your local manager has previously trusted you to work excess hours we expect they will continual to trust you.

Work outside bankable hours: one legitimate concern was what would happen (for example) if you were stuck on the phone with a customer past your standard hours but had not pre-booked flexible working or the work took less than the 30 minute bankable block. There never was any intention from the company that this work would be unpaid, but this was not made clear. Should you end up stuck on the phone, or are finishing an urgent piece of work after your contracted hours you will be given that time back as “time off in lieu”. Should that extra work take more than 30 minutes your manager can alternatively offer you that back as bankable hours.

Number of flexidays: before April 2020 some staff in Commercial were able to take up to 13 flexidays a year, others were not allowed to take any. Finding a way of squaring that circle has not been easy and trying to find one rule that works in a trading centre and also works in a small branch has been problematical. Given that no more than 50% of staff were taking six days a year we pushed for that as the number to be accommodated (it is more than what was initially pitched). This figure will be reviewed next year when we will have a year of recorded centralised data to review.

Whilst we appreciate not everyone will be happy with the final outcome, especially the small percentage who would build up their hours to take 13 flexidays before the suspension of flexitime, we think that the final outcome is reasonable with some members who did not get flexitime now getting it and it is a more reasonable proposition than the current suspension of flexitime that in our opinion has gone on too long.

Flexitime reinstated in Retail Motor Claims…

Following intervention from Unite in AXA, flexitime will be reintroduced in Retail Motor Claims from 1st June following its suspension without our knowledge.

Further flexitime will be rolled out in Household Claims once staff resourcing issues have been resolved.

Thanks to our new Claims rep in Tunbridge Wells, Gary Summers, for bringing the matter to our attention.

Commercial publish flexible working principles…

At the start of the pandemic flexitime was suspended in Commercial Lines. Since then we have engaged with the business in an effort to see the reintroduction of it in some form as soon as was practical. Following on from our survey last year, which raised a number of concerns around the suspension, a working party (which included several union reps) was set up by AXA to look into flexible working in Commercial Lines, with a view to how this could work in the forthcoming smart working environment.

This working party gathered feedback from commercial staff across all grades and departments and has now produced a set of proposed principles for flexible working for Commercial going forward, which incorporates flexitime (now called banked hours) as an option giving employees access to different flexible working options, including the ability to work flexibly within the working day/ week and the ability to bank hours where there is a business need for additional hours to be worked. These guidelines are different from the old rather prescriptive flexitime charter rules and see a number of improvements but also see some changes that some people may feel impact them negatively.

The flexible working principles have now been published so employees can read and understand the proposed changes and we are encouraging you to provide feedback to your local union rep to be fed back into the working party about any major concerns you might possibly have with the new guidelines.

The principles are of course a compromise of many different viewpoints on the subject and whilst not everyone is going to be pleased with some of the proposed changes, the improvements from current rules hopefully demonstrate that whilst the end result is a compromise it is a definite improvement to the ongoing suspension of flexitime.

Travel claims announcement

Today’s announcement of the loss of the Lloyds contract will cause worry and anxiety for the staff in Travel Claims who now face an uncertain future. At present there are many important questions that cannot be immediately answered, but we will be working with the company to protect the interests of our members in the affected unit, and minimise any potential job losses.

If you have any concerns, please speak to your local Unite in AXA representative and we will do our best to answer them. A list of reps can be found here.