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New holiday policy for Government's "tired" workforce

New holiday policy for Government's

Wednesday 10 February 2021

New holiday policy for Government's "tired" workforce


The Government is changing its policy on holidays as some of its thousands of workers are showing signs of fatigue as a result of the pandemic.

Chief Executive Charlie Parker said the move to allow employees to carry over annual leave is one of a number measures the Government has introduced to support its workforce during the pandemic.

His comments came during a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, following a question from St. Peter Constable Richard Vibert about the exit strategies the Government was developing “to help staff into usual working routines post the covid measures being deactivated."

Mr Parker explained that, as the island was still in the second wave of covid, arrangements were “forever being reviewed”.  

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Pictured: Charlie Parker said arrangements were “forever being reviewed” about returning to "business as usual".

“We are not in a place where we are fully out of it yet,” he added. “The reality is that probably throughout 2021 going to be in a state of some transition as we move the organisation back to business as usual.

"The vaccine programme will help but I think everybody has learned to recognise that covid is no respector of anything and as a consequence of that, some aspects of our business will be longer in returning to normal than others. 

“We expect to stand up the test, track and trace; the vaccine teams, all the work we’ve been doing over an expanded public health programme for both policy development and work that we’re doing with our health colleagues for some time. Some of those personnel will probably stay in their roles over the next few months.”

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Pictured: The Chief Executive said the Government had introduced a “holistic support package” for its employees.

He then went on to list a number of “support mechanisms” introduced for staff over the last 12 months as part of a “holistic support package."

He said that included a subscription service being made available, as well as support for people who feel vulnerable or who struggled to work from home and a series of leadership support projects through the Team Jersey programme. Director Generals and other senior staff were provided with access to 1:1 coaching support at the peak of the pandemic through Team Jersey.

The Chief Executive also said the Government looked at how to “transition people who felt under huge amounts of pressure during that time to ensure that their wellbeing was looked after”. 

“As we’re coming to 2021, the other flexing that we’ve done is recognise lots of people are getting tired and we all need to be sensible about how we manage annual leave that’s built up over the period, particularly into 2021 and 2022,” he added. 

“We made special arrangements to allow flexing of our terms and conditions for carry over for annual leave.”

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Pictured: “I don’t think anybody  will fully understand the ramifications of this for some time," Mr Parker said.

He added that while the full impact of “the mental health ramifications or some of the other societal issues” wouldn’t be known for some time, the Government was “very alive” to the issues, which were being worked through by Public Health and the Health Department.

He also said those issues had been brought up in recent meetings from the Competent Authorities Ministers.

“I don’t think anybody will fully understand the ramifications of this for some time and I think if we are being honest, we’re probably going to see some of that unwind over not just 2021 but beyond,” Mr Parker said.

“There will be other issues which will, I think, be quite significant for the island  and for those people who’ve suffered bereavement for example, there will be an impact; for those people whose families are still potentially impacted by covid, whether it’s long covid or otherwise, they will again require careful support; the mental health issues that you’ve touched on I think will be enormous and wider issues about how families have got through this and what the ramifications will have been for relationships, we know that levels of domestic abuse have gone up… 

“These all impact on staff as well as Jersey as an island and I think it’s a big issue which ultimately, no one at this current moment, I think, can predict how and in what way we will react but what we have to be is alive to those issues and we’ve got to start to put in place, I think, a long-term recovery plan and that does then finally impact of course on some of the economic issues that will have arisen out of this, some people will have unfortunately have suffered huge consequences as a result economically; what does that do for families, for individuals, some of them will be linked to our employees and how will that again impact on the island.

“I think that’s going to be a significant amount of work that we will have to get to grips with. I don’t think we have the answers for that, but we are aware.”

Statistics released following a written question to the Chief Minister from Senator Steve Pallett showed that 161 public sector workers accessed counselling - whether via telephone, face-to-face or onlline - through the Government's 'BeSupported' service in 2020. 300 calls were made in total.

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Pictured: Hundreds of public sector workers accessed counselling support last year.

'BeSupported' gives employees access to a freephone helpline, provides advice on stress, work issues, financial problems, addictions and career worries, and offers up to six free counselling sessions free.

The Chief Minister said that 60 individuals received face to face counselling on-island, while nine colleagues received independent support via an assessment. A further 200 referrals were made to Occupational Health by managers where stress, anxiety or depression were flagged by their staff.

The Chief Minister also said of the Government's wellbeing measures: "During this period, we have helped colleagues to build and maintain good mental health and provided tools such as webinars, the ‘Thrive’ App, and an employee support pack (which signposts where help is available both internally and externally on island). Through regular communications such as ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ and regular newsletters we have detailed steps that colleagues can take to improve and maintain good mental and physical health. We have taken steps to grow and improve our network of mental health first aiders with the aim of ensuring that everyone has a listening ear.

"We arranged access, after an assessment, to independently provided peer to peer support and counselling for employees."

He continued: "Recognising that many of our colleagues are working in different locations both at home and in the office, we have carried out healthy working assessments which include prompts around mental health with regards to:

  • those remaining at home;
  • anyone suffering from anxiety about returning to the workplace;
  • supporting those who have struggled during the covid period.

"Individuals can share with their line manager or if they prefer seek support as outlined above. A simple to use stress risk assessment process is available to all staff as a means of promoting conversations about wellbeing."

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