Posted: Wed 20th Mar 2024

Concerns Raised Over Removal of £200 Home Workspace Allowance /

CONCERNS have been raised that axing a £200 allowance to cover the costs of buying equipment that allows council staff to set up a workspace at home could hit productivity.
At a meeting of Blaeanau Gwent County Borough Council’s Corporate Performance scrutiny committee on Thursday, March 14 councillors looked at a report on agile and flexible working policies of the council.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and due to the closure of the Civic Centre in Ebbw Vale, the council adopted an agile working policy in 2021.
The updated policy takes out the £200 payment which allowed staff to buy a desk and chair for their home workspace.
Head of organisational development Andrea Prosser explained that as the £200 allowance is not available anymore it would be made “very clear” in any job advert that requires an element of working from home, what the “requirements” are.
Ms Prosser told councillors that “no other council” to her knowledge offers this allowance.
But Cllr Tommy Smith believed the removal of the allowance would be a “step backwards.”
Cllr Smith said: “When the policy came in it was noted at the outset staff needed a place to work from when they are working from home.
“When we have a new employee coming to the authority, they should be provided with the equipment they need – I’m concerned that not everyone will have that.”
Ms Prosser explained that any future recruits would be expected to “kit their own workplace” at home.
She stressed that nothing was being “taken away” from current staff and that there is a need to make financial savings.
Cllr Smith believed that to get the best out of each member of staff they needed to have the right equipment.
Cllr Smith said: ” I’m not really sure that £200 is really a saving for the authority.
“We want to be a good employer – a lot of our staff live as I do in a terrace house with limited room, and you need to set aside a workspace.
“Someone applying for a job may not have the money to go out and buy a desk or chair in order to undertake their job.”
Ms Prosser stressed that health and safety checks are made, and the workstation assessment would need to be done with council managers.
She added that the cost of providing equipment had been £4,000 over the last year.
Committee chairwoman, Cllr Joanna Wilkins asked what would happen after an initial assessment between a new employee and their line managers identified that table and chair were needed at home.
Ms Prosser said that this would be covered under “reasonable adjustment” and the manager would be expected to support the employee with: “whatever that needs to be.”
Interim chief executive, Damien McCann said that take up of the allowance had been “quite small” amongst council staff.
Ms McCann said:  “Agile working has assisted us in attracting people to come and work here.”
“We’ll monitor the situation and see if’s off putting to anybody.”
Councillors noted the report and will go on to be discussed at a a full council meeting on Thursday, March 21. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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