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 proposedprinciples 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.
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 â€œflexitime been suspended/not available/withdrawnâ€, 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.
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.
Members in AXA Teesside will now have seen managementâ€™s proposal toÂ 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.