Everyone is finding working from home challenging and sometimes quite stressful, even more so if you are also trying to juggle the demands of small children no longer at school or in nursery/child minding.
By and large we think that most employees and managers are considerate of the additional pressures their colleagues with children are facing at present, but unfortunately we have been approached by some members about negative comments being said or posted about them on social media when childcare needs impacts their ability to do their job, especially those whose role involves customer-centric shifts.
To be clear this is unacceptable and is bullying. We have raised this issue with HR and they agree it is unacceptable. If you find colleagues are making negative comments about your issues balancing childcare responsibilities and work, you should speak to your manager. If they do not resolve the issue speak to your local Unite rep and we will help address the bullying.
As have said previously AXAâ€™s response to the Covid-19 crisis and speed at which it managed to get us all working from home with new laptops was praiseworthy, reducing the risk of infection to staff in as timely a manner as possible.Â
Unfortunately since then, the follow up to provide additional equipment to make working from home easier and safer has been less speedy. Many members have contacted us saying how their working arrangements at home are unsatisfactory due to the lack of facilities the have. Employees have reported to us being hunched over laptops sat of coffee tables, sat in an armchair all day, using an ironing board as a desk and even working from their bed! Others have reported eye strain issues with only having a small laptop screen when normally they use two monitors.
Not only does this negatively impact the abilities of us to do the work we are trying to do, it also has a negative impact on our health with the increased risk of back problems and eyesight to name just two.
It is now two weeks since AXA told employees it was looking into this but nothing much appears to have been done and we have told the company that it must prioritise the issue of lack of suitable desks, chairs, screens, keyboards, mouse etc for employees working from home, and they need to do this in the same speedy manner as they rolled out laptops.
Additionally we have raised the issue were staff have attempted to resolve issues of kit their managers have not by dipping into their own pocket to by a mouse or other equipment just so they can do their job more efficiently. A multi-national company the size of AXA should not expect its employees to buy the equipment neeeded to do the job they are employed to and we fully expect AXA to recompense any reasonable purchases.
A number of members have contacted us about the various internet outages across the country, notably for Virgin Media, BT and Sky customers and the impact on them working from home.
We have spoken to HR about this and they have confirmed that it should be treated the same as if you were working in the office and there was an internet or other failure, and staff are not expected to make the time lost suffered by an outage or take holiday.
Last week we learnt that Commercial had suspended the operation of flexitime and accrual of hours whilst employees worked from home with immediate effect. Unite in AXA were not consulted on this beforehand.
Yesterday we held a meeting with Jon Walker, Commercial Director, about his decision and raised our concerns over the lack of prior consultation, the impact on staff and their ability to react to urgent customer needs, and the decision to not allow individuals to take flexidays from the time they have already accrued.
Jon Walker advised the reason for the decision was primarilly driven by concerns for the mental well-being of Commercial staff working from home during the crisis, as well as problems that could arise out a build up of flexitime to be taken once employees return to the office. He advised there was no intention to make this suspension permanent.
We stressed that we would not accept employees being expected to work beyond their contracted hours to meet customer needs without any form of compensation, whether than be in the form of time accrual, time off in lieu or overtime payment.
It was agreed that employees should not be expected to work beyond their contracted hours for free and that if necessary specific instances were extra work is required by staff for customer service reasons then they would be allowed to record this as accrued time. It was also agreed that staff who had already accrued enough hours to take time off could do so.
We are assured this is a temporary measure and we will ensure that the decision is regularly reviewed to ensure it meets the needs of our members as well as that of the business as the current situation evolves.
A number of members have approached us with concerns around the Cornonavirus outbreak and its implications from a work point of view. The subject is an evolving one and it is important to avoid speculation and sharing of erroneous information.
AXA UK has a ‘Coronavirus Hub’ with frequently updated FAQ that can be accessed via the company intranet here.
The NHS page with advice and common questions can be found here.
The Government page with travel information and guidance can be found here.
We are in ongoing consultation with the company and if you cannot find the answer to an immediate issue from the above, please speak to your local union rep and we will raise with the appropriate people at AXA.
We would ask though to try and avoid speculative what if questions (eg. what if schools close; something the Government views as unlikely at present). If these matters do become likely we will engage with the company to address them, but priority must be given to more immediate issues.