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New ways of working during COVID-19, David Cagney, SIGMA webinar, 15 December 2020

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New ways of working during COVID-19, David Cagney, Chief Human Resources Officer for the Civil Service, Ireland, SIGMA webinar, 15 December 2020

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New ways of working during COVID-19, David Cagney, SIGMA webinar, 15 December 2020

  1. 1. 2 Rue André Pascal 75775 Paris Cedex 16 France mailto:sigmaweb@oecd.org Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 24 82 00 www.sigmaweb.org This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union (EU). It should not be reported as representing the official views of the EU, the OECD or its member countries, or of partners participating in the SIGMA Programme. The opinions expressed and arguments employed are those of the authors. This document, as well as any data and any map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. © OECD 2020 – The use of this material, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found on the OECD website page http://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions. NEW WAYS OF WORKING DURING COVID-19 David Cagney, Chief Human Resources Officer for the Civil Service, Ireland Why: What was the problem, what did not work? Why there was a need for such a solution? COVID-19 has become the key unifying issue affecting all public service employers and employees during 2020. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has supported public service employers to effectively manage the public service workforce and maintain business continuity. The Department expanded its role to encompass agreeing the principles for working arrangements for both the Civil Service and the broader public service (c.400 000 employees); providing leadership, direction, embedding an innovative uniquely responsive and collective approach to the new working arrangements that came in virtually overnight in March 2020. The immediate challenge was to support public sector employers in mobilising their workforce to continue to provide key services to the people of Ireland, while protecting the health and wellbeing of all staff, in line with Government guidance. How: How were the solutions developed? Employees, unions and staff representatives have shown flexibility in working to introduce new arrangements so that the public service could continue to deliver crucial services to the public. This collective ownership helped the workforce to remain productive and continue to deliver essential services for the public, despite the challenging environment. To achieve this, we recognised the need to act as One Public Service. The general principles that apply to the working arrangements during COVID-19 in the Civil and Public Service include:
  2. 2. 2 Public health Business need One Public Service Safeguarding the health of both the public in their interaction with the public service, and employees, is central to how work is organised. Public service employers and employees must comply with measures for safeguarding public health and safety of the workplace, including related legislation and Government advice. The public service must deliver the services that the public need and expect in a changing delivery environment. Openness, transparency and consistency will underpin service delivery and decision-making. The employer determines the criteria for return to the workplace according to business needs. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have operated as a unified, One Public Service and developed guidance and FAQs in order to ensure transparency of decision making and agree on the overriding principles which apply, while recognising individual needs of certain sectors. The Department aimed to:  Take a leadership role, anticipate emerging issues, agreeing proactive solutions, in line with evolving public health advice;  Establish an agile mechanism for shared ownership of key decisions;  Harness and enhance existing networks, creating new structures and processes where needed;  Ensure consistent, fair treatment of staff across all sectors;  Lead formalised, constructive engagement with the Unions, as One Public Service to maintain industrial peace at a time of unprecedented change;  Rapidly restructure the Civil Service HR Division to most effectively support public sector employers. What? Description of a tool/solution The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform led an accelerated One Public Service approach to policy development and decision making during COVID-19, involving employers and stakeholders across the Civil Service, and for the first time, the Public Service communicated through Guidance/FAQs to all public servants on www.gov.ie. The Department set up Civil Service and Public Service sector calls, initially on a twice weekly basis (four calls per week) and now weekly (two calls per week) to discuss changes to public health and Government advice, and queries and common issues that sectors raise directly with the Department. We collaborate on changes to the Guidance/FAQs to ensure that we understand the implications of changes in each of the sectors. Examples of the types of arrangements put in place include:  Temporary Assignments Policy/Scheme developed with stakeholders to immediately respond in week one of the crisis, ensuring continuity of essential public services, providing a structure to manage similar requirements into the future.  Flexibility across the public service including temporary flexible working arrangements for example continuing to work from home wherever possible, flexible shifts, staggered hours, longer opening hours, blended working patterns, weekend working etc. The principle of these arrangements have been agreed centrally, with local agreement and engagement between management and unions/associations.
  3. 3. 3  Transition to virtual employee supports- the Civil Service went from 100% in-person learning and development to 100% virtual and e-learning, with high engagement levels and positive feedback e.g. Return to Workplace Safely Induction. In addition, the Civil Service Employee Assistance Service has expanded online supports for all Civil Servants. What results: what were the benefits of the solution, how does it work in practice, lessons learnt The Department’s approach ensured:  Consistency in the management of the workforce;  A sense of common purpose across the public service;  Equality of treatment of staff across the public service;  Mobilisation and maximum utilisation of the workforce;  Strengthened industrial relations framework and key relationships;  Clarity on ways of working and terms and conditions that maintained the good will of the workforce.

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