Agenda item

Out of Hours Services (Agenda item 7)

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.


The Organisational Development Manager presented the report which concerned Breckland Council’s policy and procedure on service provision outside of office hours.  The current policy was that the Council did not provide a service except in the case of an emergency which was either life threatening or blue light request.  The practice, however, was that other services were being provided out of necessity.


The Out of Hours Policy and Procedure had been attached to the report for consideration.  If approved, it would standardise the Council’s position in moving forward.


The Organisational Development Manager advised that there was a need to clarify and then standardise the elements of out of hours service provision.  Each service team could then operate consistently within the framework.


There were a number of departments that provided out of office hours services.  These included Housing, Building Control and Environmental Health.  Each of these teams had participated in a six month monitoring exercise to establish the volumes and types of activity undertaken out of hours.


The Chairman queried the standby officer’s working hours if that particular person had to be called out.  In response, the Organisational Development Manager advised that the Council would have to operate within the law; where an officer had undertaken out of hours work either on standby, taking calls and/or in being called out, the Council would need to ensure that officers did not transgress the Working Time Directive.


The Strategic Housing Manager then explained how the pilot scheme had worked within the Housing Services team.  The pilot scheme had allowed a rota to be put in place which had worked well.  A weekly standby payment of a £100 was being paid to an Officer as well as having time off in lieu.  The Strategic Housing Manager felt that the Housing team deserved some recognition of the calls and work they did out of office hours.  She further felt that it would be difficult for her section to only have time off in lieu as it would present a problem on service delivery. 


There was a requirement, in the blue light Policy that there should be someone on standby for 24 hours; however, that did not fit in with the Council’s current policy.  The last General Purposes Committee meeting had asked the relevant teams to look at outsourcing which, in the opinion of the relevant teams, would have a big impact on their budgets.


The Organisational Development Manager explained that there were three options that could be considered:


  1. Incorporate out of hours service provision within the employment contracts and adjust the shift pattern of Officers accordingly, so Officers in these teams moved away from the standard contracts to a 24/7 service pattern.


  1. Incorporate out of hours services provision within the employments contracts but do not adjust the shift pattern of Officers.  Instead, maintain the rota/s but include any out of hours salary payments within the employment contract.


  1. Incorporate out of hours services provision within the employment contracts but don’t adjust the shift patterns of Officers.  Instead, maintain the rota/s and make a standby payment to an officer each time he/she works the rota.


The Organisational Development Manager then clarified the Council’s overtime policy.


A Member asked what would happen to an employee if he or she wished to come off the rota.  In response, the Strategic Housing Manager advised that it would be a contractual matter.  The Head of Environmental Health felt that if standby provision was tied into an employee’s contract it could give rise to potential serious implications later on.  He further felt that out of hours service should be evenly burdened onto all of the staff within the relevant teams.


The Chairman queried the 30 minute rule; where overtime was paid after 30 minutes, and asked how this was monitored.  The Strategic Housing Manager advised that the overtime claimed was based on trust; however, spot checks could be carried out, once a month, before claims were submitted.  Individual telephone calls of over 30 minutes could be accumulated.


Members were advised that the Council did not want to operate shift patterns like the Police Authority but wanted to provide normal working hours for Officers with them only working emergency hours on a rota basis.  The Organisational Development Manager then explained the procedure of an overtime workflow on HR Net.


Each team was then provided with an opportunity to explain what was classed as an emergency.


The cost of running rota/s could be accurately forecast based upon bullet point 1 of the report.  For example, if the three current rotas in operation continued, the cost to the Council could be accurately calculated as 52 weeks x 3 rotas x £100=£15,600.


In response to a question with regard to whether the aforementioned amount could increase, Members were advised that the amount of £15,600 would not increase but it did not cover the cost of overtime related to telephone calls.  This amount would come out of the overtime budget for each Service Area.


As far as outsourcing was concerned, Members were advised that it was cheaper to continue to work with the police, fire officers or the trading standards rather than outsourcing the work to another company.  There was not much support for setting up a collaborative approach with other District Councils.


The recommendation from the Local Joint Consultative Committee meeting held on 13 September 2007 was discussed.


A Member highlighted Option 4.1 of the report which stated that the Out of Hours Policy and Procedure be implemented and reviewed after six months. He felt that this option, if agreed, should state what information was required; for example, how much overtime was being paid and how much time off in lieu was being taken so that any long term implications could be picked up.


A Member asked whether it would be a viable way forward to pay £500 into designated Officers’ salaries and amend their contracts.  In response, the Organisational Development Manager advised that, contractually, the Council would be offering every new employee, working in these particular teams, a new contract, and in the offering of the new contracts, the Council would incorporate the rota.  It was estimated that this would involve over 40 staff and therefore would not be cost effective.


After further discussion, it was


RECOMMEND to Council that the Out of Hours Service be approved as set out in option 4.1 of the report, subject to the inclusion of the amendments shown in bold, as follows:


  1. The Policy of Breckland Council is not to provide a service out of hours; except in life threatening or emergency ‘Blue Light’ requests, and at the Manager’s discretion.


  1. The call outs that have not been ‘Blue Light’ emergencies must be reported and reviewed within six months.


  1. There is a flat standby payment of £100 per week for an Officer on standby.


  1. Callout and telephone calls that extend into overtime are claimed as overtime or time off in lieu as appropriate.


  1. The Working Time Directive and HASAWA 1974 are integral to operating out of office hours working.


  1. Implement the Out of Hours Policy and Procedure and review this within six months.


  1. Amend the contract of employment for each designation of Officer in scope to include a clause requiring them to participate in a standby rota if requested.

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