Care charity staff take employers to tribunal
MORE than a dozen home care staff are taking Family Nursing & Home Care to an employment tribunal after refusing to sign new contracts containing worse terms and conditions.
The long-running dispute – which came after the Health Department cut funding from the organisation – has led to a number of staff walking out on the company. A subsequent internal appeal against the new contracts was rejected by Family Nursing last week.
Unite the Union regional representative Nick Corbel said that ‘13 or 14 staff’ had filed cases with the Jersey Employment Tribunal, while more had agreed severance packages, which included confidentiality clauses and promises not to take the matter further. A total of 44 home care employees have left FNHC since a consultation over future working began.
Mr Corbel, who has previously said that FNHC’s new contracts contain worse terms and conditions, claims that Family Nursing had ‘moved the goalposts’ midway through the appeals process by redefining the changes from redundancy to restructuring measures. However, Ann Esterson, chairwoman of FNHC, has disputed his claim and said that the process had always been about renegotiating the terms of staff contracts.
Earlier this year, home care staff were presented with a final contract offer which stated that in order to meet their contracted hours, workers would have to be available to work any time between 7 am and 11 pm seven days a week. Other changes to working terms under the new contracts included that travelling between clients’ homes would no longer count towards their contracted working hours.
The Health Department announced last year that it would cut funding for the home care portion of the organisation’s service, which FNHC says costs about £1.9 million per year to run.
The decision by Health to cut its funding for home care means that the charity can no longer offer the service at a subsidised rate.
Mr Corbel said: ‘We appealed on the basis that they didn’t follow a fair process in managing the redundancies. They then decided that it wasn’t redundancies at all.
‘From day one, we were advised by the employer that this constituted redundancy. The employer agreed terms of reference for redundancies with us and the Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service.’
Mr Corbel said that it was a ‘disgraceful way’ to treat home care staff ‘some of whom have been employed by Family Nursing for decades’. He added that he felt some staff had decided to sign the confidentiality clause and take the severance money rather than take their appeal further because they had ‘mortgages to pay and families to feed’.
‘In order to receive what the employer is calling an “ex-gratia payment”, employees had to sign up to a settlement agreement,’ Mr Corbel said.
‘That agreement would bar them from processing a complaint to [the] tribunal and included a confidentiality clause.’
Meanwhile, Ms Esterson said that the unions had been consulted throughout the process and that the contract changes had always been a ‘renegotiation of staff terms’.
She added: ‘Following a withdrawal of funding for home care services, FNHC has had to go through a long and difficult process with its staff and trade unions to change staff terms and conditions to make it viable for FNHC to continue to provide care to its clients.
‘Trade unions and staff representatives were fully involved in the development of new terms and conditions and kept informed throughout.
‘The process has always been a renegotiation of staff terms and conditions – all jobs remained available for those who wished to continue as employees of the charity during this period.
‘As of today, 44 of FNHC’s home care employees have left the charity since the consultation period began. FNHC is sad that some colleagues have decided to leave, and we wish them well for the future. From FNHC’s point of view we are now at the end of the process and we have to focus on building and maintaining high-quality care services for our clients in Jersey.’