AXA ‘no’ to cost of living threshold uplift…

After representations by Unite in AXA, and other employee representative groups in AXA UK, the company have advised that they “won’t be expanding the scope of the one-off £1k cost of living payment”.

They said that they “recognise that all employees are making difficult decisions about how to save money and juggle their finances, and understand the approach taken own’t solve everyone’s household budget challenges” and that in their opinion “no solution… will be perfect”.  They “feel the package launched was the most sensible balance between the needs of employees, who are more likely to vulnerable vs. protecting the commercial health of the business”.

We are disappointed with this response, given the divisive binary nature of the threshold that upset many members, especially those unfortunate to fall just above the line, as well as the where this line was drawn. We will however continue to campaign for further and ongoing cost of living provision from the company, and do not regard this payment as all we are expecting to see AXA do to support its staff during this increasingly difficult time.

AXA agree to provide interest-free hardship loans…

Back in July we made a number of suggestions to AXA of measures they could undertake to help staff during the cost of living crisis; one of these was an expansion of the Season Ticket Loan scheme to cover loans for any purpose to help employees with immediate financial problems.

Obviously we would like people not to be in a position where they need to take out a loan, but Unite in AXA felt that an interest-free option on a similar basis to the 0% interest Season Ticket scheme would help employees facing difficult choices with limited (often high interest) options in the market place.

Unite are pleased to see AXA have agreed to implement this suggestion over the next three months (until a new proposition should be in place). Please speak to your manager if you want more information about how much you can borrow and over what period. We would remind Unite members that the union provides free independent financial advice as part of their membership benefits, more details can be found here.

Over 1,000 sign WFH allowance petition!

Over one thousand AXA employees have now signed our petition requesting the company to re-instate the Working From Home allowance for hybrid workers or introduce something similar to help staff facing increased heating and electricity costs this winter.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet please do so HERE – and don’t forget to get your work colleagues to as well, the more signatories the more minded the company to look to do something.

Sign our petition to get the home working allowance back!

At the start of the pandemic when employees were required to work from home AXA UK awarded all staff a weekly allowance of £6 per week to help with increased utility bills, broadband costs etc. With the impact of the pandemic reduced and the majority of employees switching to a hybrid working contract AXA stopped paying this allowance in June last year.

Since then fuel prices (which drive electricity and heating prices) have increased by 12% in October 2021, 54% in April this year and will increase by a further 27% (and that after Government intervention) next month. Employees on hybrid contracts have endured and continue to face increasing costs to work from home that AXA does not help with.

Whilst employees are having now to pay to work at home with increased electricity usage and heating, AXA UK has been making big savings on its property portfolio, combining office locations (like Gloucester and Teesside) or reducing floor occupation (as in the likes of Birmingham, Bristol and Ipswich). Desk availability is now around 2/3 of the employee population, we cannot all work in the office at the same time. The vast majority of employees are now required to partly work from home and pay for the electricity needed to power their equipment to do their job, and heat the rooms they are working in. 

When you work in the office you are not asked to chip in for the electricity to power your PC or light the office, nor are you asked to contribute towards the cost of keeping the office heated. Why should you have to do this just because you are working in a different location that also happens to be your home?

AXA does pay a home working allowance to a much smaller population to “cover domestic costs like additional utility bills”; those employees designated “non-office based workers”. Whilst some of these do not work near an AXA office, and rarely if ever visit one, a considerable number of them visit AXA offices as regularly as some on hybrid worker contracts.

This inconsistency, along with the cost hybrid workers are facing to work from home (when AXA is making savings from employees doing this) is why we are calling on AXA to re-instate the working from home allowance for hybrid workers, or provide some pro-rata allowance to cover the days employees now work at home rather than the office.

They are reluctant to do this which is why we are asking you, the employees, to sign this petition, and encourage your colleagues to do so to, so management understand the strength of feeling on this issue and re-consider their stance in asking employees to pay to work form home, whilst they make big savings in reduced property costs across the UK.


AXA take cost of living action – for some…

Two months on from our request that AXA take urgent action to help staff during the cost of living crisis by making a one-off payment and taking other measures, the company has today announced the award of £1,000 to those employees earning £33,000 or less, and an increase in the company minimum wage to £11 an hour.

These measures are, to a point, welcome and we are pleased that a number of staff facing real difficulties will now receive some help with the day to day issues they are facing. Approximately 900 employees will benefit from the increase in the minimum wage and 4,200 will receive the one-off £1000 award in their October pay packets.

However, Unite in AXA do not believe the company have gone as far as it could have and note that the award is at the lower end of those that have already been awarded in the financial services sector.

The imposition of an arbitrary salary limit to qualify for the award is, in our opinion, hard to justify for a number of reasons, especially when most other companies have not done this. It is divisive and we have asked the company to reconsider its approach by either removing the limit, increasing it, or applying the award to all those staff in Professional grades and lower. Whilst, as we have said, it is good news for 4,200 employees, there will be a considerable number in the 3,620 who will receive nothing in October, that are also struggling with the cost of living crisis.

The increase in the minimum wage is of course welcome, but again not without issue in that it causes problems with pay compression and the erosion of historic pay awards for those who are just above the new level. We have reminded AXA that it was agreed that we would jointly look at pay progression as a topic to help try and alleviate the problems that changes in pay scales can cause, and we are looking forward to working on this issue with them.

Overall today’s news is something of a mixed bag and its impact dependent on personal circumstances. We are pleased that our efforts will see 54% of AXA UK employees receive an extra ordinary one off award to help them in these difficult times. We have not however forgotten the 46% that AXA has chosen to ignore and we will continue to work on your behalf to get you the help that you also need.

Also, from our point of view, this is just a first step on the cost of living challenge and have made it clear to the company that today’s news is not all that can or needs to be done by it to help employees during the cost of living crisis.

Unite present cost of living support suggestions to AXA…

Following recent discussions between Unite in AXA local reps and our members to discuss ways of helping alleviate the cost of living crisis on employees in AXA UK, we have collated and submitted a list of suggestions to management.

Top of the list was a one-off cost of living payment. A number of financial services sectors have already made awards to their employees (most commonly £1000) and we have requested AXA do the same, looking at the most beneficial way to get the maximum amount into your pocket.

There were a number of other suggestions including increasing the benefits through MAX (especially supermarket discounts and adding energy providers); expanding the season ticket loan scheme to a general loan scheme; help on commuting costs including extending the repayment period for Cycle2Work; breakfast/dinner clubs; a lunch allowance for office workers; an employee hardship fund; the reintroduction of the homeworking allowance and the supply of heating equipment to employees who require during the winter months.

We have submitted the ideas to AXA management and are looking forward to their considered response as soon as possible.

Unite ask for sanitary product provision across AXA…

As part of Unite the Union‘s national Period Dignity campaign, and following the success of our union colleagues in Aviva and Legal & General, Unite in AXA have asked the company to provide free sanitary products across all of its sites.

At present provision is inconsistent with it available in some sites such as Middlesbrough, following our recent campaign, others like Manchester where the landlord provides and some like Bristol were a pilot is being trialled by Property. Other sites such as Ipswich have no provision.

We feel that the provision of these products should be consistent across all sites and are urging AXA to implement this as a matter of priority.

Increased holiday – a thankless task?

“We’re increasing the minimum holiday allowance from 23 days to 25 days after reviewing the market and listening to feedback from our employees…”

Whilst the increase in the minimum holiday entitlement for Associate and Senior Associate grades is very welcome, we are disappointed that the company communication fails to recognise the involvement of Unite in AXA in its implementation.

It might seem churlish of us to blow our own trumpet here, but it is important that members and employees are aware that Unite in AXA is continually involved in the uphill battle to improve their terms and conditions and know when this work results in something positive.

It was Unite in AXA that “reviewed the market” in the first instance, contacting the senior Unite reps in Allianz, Aviva, Legal & General and Royal & Sun Alliance to ascertain their holiday entitlements to compare to ours. Apart from Allianz, our main insurance competitors had an entry level of 25 days holiday (rising up to 30). This information we passed to AXA in January and it formed part of our pay negotiations when we asked for parity on holiday entitlement.

AXA agreed in February that, as part of the pay deal, it would review the company offering following the market data we had provided (see our newsletter 08.02.22). They did seem amenable to the idea of a market matched uplift and consequently we are pleased that out efforts earlier in the year have born fruit.

We don’t do our role in Unite in AXA to be fawned and receive praise, we want results not plaudits, but it is important that members and employees realise what goes on behind announcements such as this one from the company which whitewashes out the involvement of its employee representative bodies.

Postscript: since posting this the One page post has been updated to include reference to Unite in AXA 🙂