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Reward in tough times…

Click here to read the latest Unite in AXA newsletter detailing the 2021 Pay Claim we have presented to the company. Please leave your feedback below or talk to your local union rep.

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Unite in AXA request help for struggling parents…

Last night the Government announced that it would be closing schools as part of the national lockdown, contradicting its position just 24 hours earlier and causing major problems for many parents.

Last year, to help parents, AXA extended its provision of paid emergency leave from five days to twenty which along with the ability to flex working patterns and holiday allowed many to cope with the circumstances they found themselves in.

Whilst the company has announced that the use of these twenty days can now be extended to April 2021, it is likely that most employees who have needed to use these days have probably used all of them in the first two lockdowns.

Most employees with childcare responsibilities in AXA will be able to manage their situation through working flexibly hours, taking holiday and sharing responsibilities with partners, although we appreciate that it can be difficult and stressful.

However there is a group of employees with younger children who in customer facing roles who cannot work flexibly and have no partner to share looking after their child(ren), and these need support beyond what the company is currently offering.

The Government Job Retention Scheme allows these employees to be furloughed and receive (at least) 80% of their salary, but the company has decided that it will not use the scheme, so this option which would address the problem is not available.

We have asked AXA to urgently review its policy to help this group of employees and solve a problem it has largely created itself by not utilising the scheme for the small number of employees who need the help it would provide.

If you have childcare responsibilities and have problems balancing them with your work in the first instance you should speak with your manager, but if you get no help there, please contact your local Unite in AXA rep for help.

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2021 Pay Survey…

The 2021 Unite in AXA pay survey can be accessed here.

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9 in 10 Commercial Staff Working Excess Hours…

The recent Commercial Flexitime Survey put into black and white, the stark issue of the amount of extra hours Commercial staff are having to undertake to support customers and the business, much of it without any form of compensation from AXA Insurance.

Over 250 employees completed the survey and almost nine in ten said they were working in excess of their contracted hours with over one-third saying they worked in excess of five hours a week extra. This is of concern as the main reason Commercial Operations senior management gave us in March for suspending flexitime was to avoid staff working excess hours for mental health reasons.

The vast majority of respondents said they were doing this to keep on top of their normal workload and worryingly one-third were doing this extra work without their manager even being aware.

Of those staff doing excess hours and where their manager was aware, despite the assurances of Jon Walker, head of Commercial, back in March that staff would not be expected to work excess hours for nothing, six in ten employees have been told by their local management that they cannot claim the extra hours they have worked supporting the business. 

Half of those staff had been told by their manager that they would not be compensated for the extra time they have worked as “flexitime been suspended/not available/withdrawn”, contradicting the promises made by senior management. The other half were not given a reason.

The results did not come as a surprise to Unite in AXA, we pointed out in March after flexitime was unilaterally suspended by management that staff regularly work excess hours to support customer need and in July flagged the issue that despite the promise Jon Walker made, local managers in many instances were not crediting staff with work done beyond contracted hours whether that be by overtime, flexitime hours banking or time off in lieu.

We have presented the survey to Jon Walker, Commercial HR and other senior HR managers and look forward to their response to our findings and what action they propose to take following receipt of the data that they requested we find to back up our previously raised concerns.

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Commercial Flexitime Survey

At the end of April Commercial Lines suspended flexitime without consultation with Unite. In subsequent conversations Commercial management stated they were doing this in the interests of employee well being so people did not work excessive hours at home. We disagreed with this citing a range of factors from business needs, to ways of managing the perceived problem, to the fact other areas in AXA Insurance still were operating flexitime eg. Claims,  but the decision had already been made.

Jon Walker, head of Commercial, assured us that no member of staff would be expected to work more than their contracted hours, and if they needed to for specific customer needs then they would no be expected to work for free and would be given the time back.

Regardless of that we have received numerous calls from members that this is not happening, or only after making a lot of fuss with their manager often requiring the intervention of their local union rep.

In July, with some staff now working back in the office, we suggested a phased return of flexitime but Commercial management have ignored our suggestion, eventually after two months of chasing, only offering to set up a working party to see how flexitime will operate in the future smart working environment (the hybrid, part home/part office one) even though that is at its formative discussion stage and no where near being rolled out.

Despite the anecdotal evidence we provided from members, Commercial management do not believe there is a problem so we have decided to survey as many staff as we can in Commercial operations across the country to evidence how widespread the issue is.

Consequently if you work in Commercial Lines (not in Claims or Finance doing Commercial orientated work) we would be grateful if you could complete this survey, and encourage your colleagues also, so we can pursue the matter of flexitime with senior management.

Please click here to access the survey.

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Widespread redundancies in AXA Claims…

Yesterday’s announcement in claims of the loss of 280 roles is extremely disappointing, even though this is mitigated by around 70 vacancies that will not be now filled being included in the total. Unite in AXA have been involved in a lengthy and detailed consultation process over the last few months regarding the business review challenging the company plans robustly. 

Whilst the business case is understandable, we are extremely disappointed that over the last few years AXA Insurance allowed the problems within Claims to grow to a point that now over 200 hard working and dedicated staff are facing redundancy through no fault of their own. 

The timing of the announcement and job losses is also disappointing given the negative impact on the jobs market due to Coronavirus. AXA have confirmed that in addition to the normal support staff at risk of redundancy receive, they are also engaging with other companies who are looking to recruit to facilitate impacted workers finding new jobs.

If you are a member at risk of redundancy, please speak to your local union rep if you need help or support. A list can be found here.

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Working From Home Survey…

Professor Phil Taylor, University of Strathclyde is currently conducting some research on Working from home (WFH). He is asking office-based workers to complete a survey.

Professor Phil Taylor said: “As you know there is a big push for a Return to Work (RTW). Trade unions are clear – workers should not RTW until they have complete confidence that it is safe to do so. This survey will capture workers’ concerns regarding RTW. It will also gather crucial data on your experiences as unions develop bargaining agendas that represent members’ on a range of issues – health and safety, mental ill-health, pressure of work, work life balance etc. Many thanks in advance for your help with this vital research.”

You can access the survey here.

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Increased working hours plan…

Members in AXA Teesside will now have seen management’s proposal to  increase working hours there from 35 to 37.5 per week.

The company are looking to extend what they introduced in Birmingham two years ago, ie. new starters on 37.5 hours a week and a voluntary increase in hours by individuals with pay increased proportionally.

The local Unite in AXA reps have now begun to engage with staff locally to enable us to consult further with the company.

If you work in Teesside and have a query, please contact one of your local reps.

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Return to the office…

The limited re-opening of AXA offices continues with Birmingham, Glasgow, Haverhill and Weybridge due to reopen with limited capacity over the next several weeks, with all those returning to the office doing so on a voluntary basis. As with all previous reopenings we have engaged actively with the company on your behalf, ensuring that health and safety is front and centre of the decision making process.

Whilst for many working from home will continue to be the norm for the time being, AXA are looking to ensure there is no drastic drop off in productivity. Consequently it may be in some business areas, where working from home has had a demonstrable negative impact on productivity, and if there is capacity in your local office (subject to social distancing requirements etc), that you may be asked to return to the office for some days a week.

This will only occur if your manager has demonstrated the necesity to do this due to a reduction in productivity.

If you have concerns about returning to the office (eg, you normally use public transport and have concerns over using it safely) or have child care issues or health issues, then in the first instance you should have a conversation with your manager who should address them and hopefully suggest ways of alleviating your concerns or problems.

If you are not satisfied with your manager’s response, then please contact your local union reps who will work with you to try and reach a solution.

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AXA offices reopening…

Monday will see AXA begin the process of re-opening some of its offices following the lockdown. In AXA Insurance these offices are Ipswich, Middlesbrough and Morecambe and less than 50 staff will be returning across the three sites. Additionally Ipswich and Middlesbrough will be used for some training before those staff return to working from home.

Unite in AXA have been heavily involved in consultation with the company over these reopenings and our primary focus has been on the health and safety of those returning. We have seen the in-depth risk assessments for the three sites and shared these with the lead union reps at each site for their input and challenge.

We have ensured that AXA provide masks to be worn by those that wish, checked social distancing protocols not only within the buildings but also outside in car parks etc. all to make sure those returning are kept as safe as possible.

Those returning will have to abide by certain rules not only for their own safety, but also that of their colleagues and we would encourage any members in this first tranche of returnees to make sure they know the rules and follow them.

The returning staff are those that have, for various reasons, been unable to work from home during the lockdown. AXA has confirmed that no employee is being forced to return to the office and if they do not feel comfortable at this stage, they will not be made to. If you are told to, or feel pressured by your manager to return to the office before you are comfortable, please speak to your local union rep.

This is the first phase of the re-opening process and the next stage with more sites re-opening is likely to be within the next few weeks depending on the success of phase one and the relaxing of Government guidlines. However, again, any further re-openings will be limited numbers of people wise and we are told on a voluntary basis.

Whilst social distancing protocols remain in place, it is not physically possible for the vast majority of workers to return to normal office work in AXA, so working from home for the majority is the new norm for the majority for the foreseeable future.

With that in mind we have been extremely vocal on the issue of AXA supplying the necessary equipments beyond just laptops and phones to allow you to work from home safely and comfortably. Hopefully the frustrating problems many have experienced have now been sorted and chairs, screens, desks etc are now being shipped to workers who need them. If you are still  experiencing problems having your requirements agreed, please speak to your local Unite in AXA rep.

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