You are:

News

Return to news listings

Network Rail: MK Q&A No.2

12 December 2011

This questions and answers briefing for members aims to advise members faced with some of the difficult issues concerning relocation to Milton Keynes.

It is intended that this briefing will be added to as issues are raised that may affect different members across Network Rail.

It should be read in conjunction with the NR’s national people process principles document ‘National Centre Change Programme Information for Employees‘.

If you are unsure of your rights or what you should do, please check with your TSSA rep or the TSSA Members’ Helpdesk and arrange for a TSSA rep to accompany you into any critical meetings. 

1. What is NR’s new position on travel to work time and how can it help me?

Following several weeks of consultation, Network Rail has issued a new statement on travel time for those moving to MK. While it represents an improved position from NR, TSSA remains committed to supporting members’ rights to follow their work to MK.

Members are encouraged to use the new guidelines where possible to support their case to a job at MK, and if not successful, to contact their TSSA representative to discuss an appeal. If members are not satisfied with the outcome, it will be critical to seek advice and to safeguard your legal rights by appealing in writing.

The following text reproduces NR’s new policy.

“We will allow travel time up to 90 or 75 minutes…. these times will also apply to those travelling by car.

Where an individual is appointed to a position and can meet the prevailing travel to work criteria travel assistance will be provided.

The principle of a threshold will remain in place (90/75 minutes) but this does not override the business’s obligation to consult with individual employees and consider their personal circumstances before making a final determination on a suitable alternative – this would include exploring alternative arrangements to travel such as partial relocation, transition arrangements which could influence their ability to relocate.

 An illustration of some of the factors to be considered can include:

  • The nature and length of the current journey
  • The nature and length of the new journey
  • The impact of those with contractually agreed flexible working arrangements and those working part time
  • The number of modes of transport, the number of connections and complexity of journey

In the specific circumstances where an employee is required to regularly perform their duties on average 2 days or more per week away from Milton Keynes and that this is confirmed by the Functional Director the company will consider allowing travel times of up to105 minutes.

The Company will seek to act reasonably and will put in place central review mechanisms to support and advise line managers and ensure fairness of application and consistency.’

TSSA Guidance

NR’s previous strict time thresholds about working at MK failed to reflect the company’s legal obligation to take into consideration their employees’ views on the suitability of alternative work and their personal circumstances.

The business’s obligation to consult with individual employees and consider their personal circumstances overrides NR’s desired time thresholds and this is reflected in NR’s new guidelines. The personal circumstances of the employee now take precedence.

Although there is a specific reference to a 105 min threshold, the new guidelines should not be interpreted that 105 mins represents an upper limit for staff. This specific clause can be applied where helpful to individuals working away from MK, but has no further relevance to other staff.

NR’s new guidelines provide a non-exhaustive list of factors that should be taken into consideration as part of the 1-2-1 discussion.

  • The nature and length of the current journey
  • The nature and length of the new journey
  • The impact of those with contractually agreed flexible working arrangements and those working part time
  • The number of modes of transport, the number of connections and complexity of journey

In practical terms, members could raise the following issues:

  • the impact of the journey on the individual, their capacity to commute and personal view of the journey
  • the length of the journey compared to their current commute – is it as long, not significantly longer or even shorter?
  • using public transport
  • the number of changes en route
  • the nature of the journey - long periods sitting / being relatively restful
  • if driving, consider if the driving is shared, route is easy, not congested, or part driving and public transport
  • a lesser number of commutes than daily - by staying over, partial relocation,
  • an existing working pattern that includes working at home or nearer home, or working shorter hours
  • new flexible working application that includes working at home or nearer home, or working shorter hours
  • mobility of the job – if you travel to other areas, either to illustrate that the travel requirements of your work are at least as onerous or that the number of occasions you would commute to MK is reduced.

Where members have been told, formally or otherwise, they are not permitted to travel to MK, this position must now be reviewed by NR in the light of the new guidelines.

1-2-1 discussions will need to be re-opened to facilitate discussion about personal circumstances which, for most staff, was not possible when line managers were compelled to apply the arbitrary travel thresholds.

Line managers will now have much more scope to support their staff in the move to MK and it is our expectation that the majority will grasp this opportunity to be able to encourage skilled and experienced staff to continue to work for NR.

If this is not considered fully in a further 1-2-1 meeting (and it is taking some time for the implications of the new guidelines to filter through the organisation), we would strongly urge members to use their right to appeal following any formal notification that they are at risk of redundancy (or if you are dissatisfied with any other outcome).

The law around suitable alternative employment and the duty on the employer to mitigate redundancies will provide the core legal arguments for most individual cases – please see the next sections of the Q&A which explain this area of the law.

If you wish to appeal, please approach your rep or call the TSSA Members’ Helpline if you are uncertain who your rep is as soon as possible to discuss submitting a letter of appeal.

2. What are my rights to appeal?

The rights to appeal are written into the National Centre Change Programme Information for Employees document and there is an Appeal Notification Form in Appendix F which you may wish to use. The section below replicates NR’s policy:

“20.1 Employees can appeal against decisions at any stage of the identification, appointment and selection for redundancy processes using the appeal notification form (Appendix F).

20.2 Employees should submit appeals using the notification form to your HR contact within five working days of the issuing of the employee letter.

20.3 An appeal hearing will then be arranged to consider the evidence where an employee will be entitled to be represented by a colleague or union representative if they wish and dealt with in accordance with the protocols of the grievance procedure. Employees should normally receive a written response within seven working days of the hearing

20.4 The decision of the appeal hearing will be final. An employee has the right to raise a formal grievance if, following the appeals process, they still feel their case has not be addressed. In these circumstances, the appeal hearing referred to section 20.1 will be regarded as the first formal stage of the individual grievance procedure.”

3. What should I do if I receive a letter saying that I cannot work at MK due to travelling distance?

If you are still refused the right to follow work to MK because of travel distance, despite the new guidelines, TSSA advises all members to appeal immediately once they receive confirmation from NR. (Please see question 1 for information on new guidelines and question 4 on what is suitable alternative employment)

On the issue of not being allowed to work at MK due to travel distance, your appeal letter should cover the next two paragraphs below in order to safeguard your legal position:

My appeal is on the grounds that I have been refused the opportunity to take up the post of XXX in Milton Keynes because I live more than XXX travelling timeaway.

I am prepared to travel to Milton Keynes and therefore I consider your refusal to allow me to takeup the post to be a denial of suitable alternative employmentwhich means that you would be unfairly selecting me for redundancy, if you proceed to dismiss me as part of the relocation process.

4. Can I change my Expression of Interest form?

If staff wish to change their Expression of Interest (EOI) form in order to ask for relocation, or to state a preference for commuting following the change to NR guidelines, our advice is to put your position clearly in writing, either in an appeal letter or as a covering letter to a new EOI. Safeguard your position by always expressing clearly your first preference

5. Can I refuse to relocate to MK because of the distance?

Yes. Under the normal legal principles that determine suitable alternative employment you can decline any post if you have good reason. However, if your contract of employment has a mobility requirement you should seek further advice from TSSA.

Relocated jobs at MK will count as alternative employment to redundancy because the employer is no longer intending to carry on its business at specific locations (London offices, Derby, York etc).

The key legal questions are whether that work is suitable to the employee, and whether the employee should reasonably accept it. If the answer is no to both or to the second question then the employee can reject a job, seek other work within the company or ultimately be paid redundancy pay.

For a job to be suitable alternative employment, the work must be the same as, or not substantially different from, the previous work and must be suitable for the employee. Changes in pay, working hours or working time, status or grade and location will be taken into account in determining suitability.

Even if the work is objectively suitable, an employee can still reject it and be entitled to redundancy pay if there are reasonable grounds for rejection relating to their personal circumstances.

The question of whether the work is suitable is considered separately from whether an employee is reasonable in refusing it. Whether or not work is suitable depends on objective factors such as a comparison of the terms and conditions (including location) and skills.

The reasonableness of the refusal by an employee to take up the offer will depend on subjective factors personal to the employee such as domestic arrangements, health and housing. For example if a new location would mean extra travel time, disturbance to childcare arrangements or looking after a dependent relative, then the employee can reasonably refuse to take up the position.

As the location changes, all staff are legally entitled to a trial period of one month. NR extends this period to three months. During this period staff can reject the job on reasonable grounds and retain the right to a redundancy payment. Continuing to work in the new role after the completion of the trial period amounts to acceptance of the role and so any reservations must be advised to the company before the three months expires.

If the job at MK is rejected as unreasonable, the employee should then still be able to pursue other opportunities available in the company. Once that process is exhausted redundancy will take place.

6. Does the company have to offer me suitable alternative employment?

Yes. The company has to offer staff suitable alternative employment wherever possible because both the employer and employee have a duty to mitigate the redundancy. NR’s intention is that roles that would be deemed as most suitable, such as those differing only in location, would be found in the ‘identification’ process.

If the actual role is ending, or the amount of people employed in that role is reducing as part of a reorganisation, the company should also offer other work, even at a different grade or in a department. The employee is under no obligation to accept a role that is substantially different but the employer has a duty to offer it.

7. What if I want to continue to work for NR but must work nearer home due to my family needs and I cannot relocate?

If you have children under the age of 16, or disabled children under the age of 18, or are a carer for another relative, we would advise you to say you wish to work at MK and put in an application for flexible working if appropriate.

While there is no absolute right to flexible working – legally there is the right to request flexible working if you have children under the age of 16 or disabled children under the age of 18 and have that considered seriously by the company – this avenue should be explored.

NR policy is broader than the statutory right to request flexible working as it applies to parents and spouses, partners and civil partners of parents of children and to a broad category of carers.

NR’s policy is contained within ‘Family Friendly Policy Information for employees’ April 2007. Carers are those who ‘have or expect to have caring responsibilities for an adult in need of care who is a spouse, partner, civil partner or relative or, if none of these, live at the same address with the adult in need of care’. ‘Relative’ according to this NR policy includes a long list of family members including parents, in-laws, grandparents, brother, sister, step or half blood relative.

Examples of the sort of care-giving activities that carers of adults are likely to be involved in include help with personal care (e.g. dressing, bathing, toileting), help with mobility (e.g. walking, getting in and out of bed), giving/supervising medicines, escorting to appointments, emotional support, practical household tasks (e.g. preparing meals, doing shopping, domestic labour). See full list.

Under the NR policy, you can request to change the hours you work, change the times when you are required to work; or work from home (whether for all or part of the week). Under the legal right to flexible working, you can request a wider range of working patterns such as compressed hours or working nearer to home in part of the week. If you request to work fewer hours, be prepared to have your pay reduced accordingly.

There is a process for making an application for flexible working using a NR form. See the NR policy for the timeline of making an application, appeal rights etc and seek advice before you make an application.

You will need to address issues such as covering the work within the team, or maintaining close contact with the office as part of this application, attending meetings, briefings and supervision. The company will need to respond in detail to your specific request dealing with the issues around the business.

Generally, as a company, NR has yet to deliver in practice the support their policy could theoretically provide. Recent pronouncements on core hours at MK are indicative of the overall stance, but some areas of the business, and certainly some individual line managers, have creditably supported their staff.

8. What is NR’s redundancy pay?

There is a Redundancy pay calculator (a chart sometimes called a Ready Reckoner) appended to the National Centre Change Programme Information for Employees document (appendix E). This calculates redundancy pay entitlement at your age at your last birthday for each completed year of service. It is an enhanced redundancy scheme, which is significantly better than the statutory scheme.

If you are coming up to age 60 or are over 60, please contact your rep.

9. What are the notice periods, do I have a right to leave early?

The standard notice periods are: -

Band/Length of employment

Period of notice from Network Rail

Period of Notice from employee

Bands 1 - 2

6 months

3 months

Bands 3 to 5

Up to 5 years

5 years or more

4 months

6 months

2 months

3 months

Bands 6 to 8

Up to 5 years

5 years or more

6 weeks

3 months

1 month

6 weeks

The company can agree to waive the requirement to work the full notice period. However you may jeopardise your redundancy payment if you leave early without NR agreeing that you can leave early with a redundancy payment.

If you are on notice but find alternative work outside of the company you will need to obtain their agreement to allow you to leave with your payment in place. If they do not agree, though, to release you with the payment, your only option would be to resign, by giving them your normal contractual notice and leave with no redundancy payment.

Only you can decide in such circumstances whether the new job is worth losing the redundancy payment, or whether it is better for you to complete your notice period in order to obtain the redundancy payment. The risk, of course, in such circumstances is that you may not be able to secure another job when your contractual notice period has expired.

10. Can I now receive financial assistance with travel costs

Financial assistance with the additional costs of travel are now available for staff travelling up to 75 mins (Bands 5-8s) and 90 mins (Bands 1-4). Previously NR applied discretionary criteria for those travelling between 60 and 75 mins and 75 and 90 mins and in a further positive move, have discarded the criteria.

11. Are there new criteria for applying for relocation?

The relocation criteria are currently under review and decisions regarding applications are on hold.

YOUR HELP IS ALSO NEEDED

TSSA is intending to update this Q&A with further questions and advice as the process continues.

Practice has already varied between functions and locations, so keep us up to date with what individual members of staff are being told by sending us a copy of any decisions you receive as we need to build on good practice and advice and help members who are treated poorly.

Even if you are happy with NR’s decision or do not need advice at this time, please do send us copies of letters to richardsm@tssa.org.uk or by post to M Richards, TSSA, Walkden House, 10 Melton St, London NW1 2EJ. You may blank out any personal details if you wish.

Please feel free to distribute this Q&A to members and non-members and do encourage all colleagues to join the TSSA. Together we will be stronger!

 Download as pdf:   Network rail MK Q and A


 

Return to news listings

Join TSSA

 

 

Directory