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Temporary assignment scheme, David Cagney, SIGMA webinar, 15 December 2020


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Temporary assignment scheme (2020), David Cagney, Chief Human Resources Officer for the Civil Service, Ireland, SIGMA webinar, 15 December 2020

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Temporary assignment scheme, David Cagney, SIGMA webinar, 15 December 2020

  1. 1. 2 Rue André Pascal 75775 Paris Cedex 16 France Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 24 82 00 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 TEMPORARY ASSIGNMENT SCHEME (2020) 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? There was a recognition in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic that certain front line government services would come under considerable stress with regard to their capacity to deliver on their mandate and would require immediate emergency assistance to do so. This issue was particularly acute in the areas of social protection and health. At the same time, the government introduced a policy that all civil and public servants should work remotely from home unless they were deemed by their employer to be essential workers. The net result of this decision was that employers prioritized the work that could be effectively carried out remotely. This in turn led to a situation where many civil and public servants were working on what was in effect non-essential work. The purpose of the scheme is to identify an available pool of employees who can be called upon to support the continued delivery of essential public services. How: How were the solutions developed? The Civil Service Human Resources Division (CSHRD) worked collaboratively with the Public Appointments Service (PAS) and other Civil and Public Service stakeholders to develop the Temporary Assignments Scheme (TAS) policy and implementation protocols. This allowed us to manage the immediate and significant demands in terms of assignments to the health area and other organisations that were responding on the frontline to the fall out of the COVID-19 crisis. In parallel, the CSHRD engaged in informal discussions with staff union representatives to explain how the process would work and to build in safeguards to ensure that employees and their representatives were supportive of the aims of the Scheme. What? Description of a tool/solution The key principle underpinning the Scheme is that all civil and public service organisations are included, and may offer or request temporary assignees.
  2. 2. 2 In March 2020, organisations were asked to identify staff at all grades who were not working on essential services or engaged in critical business continuity work at the time. These staff were required to register their details on an online TAS portal, set up under the scheme and administered by the PAS. Organisations requiring staff from the scheme contacted the PAS directly and staff were formally reassigned via an agreed process (agreement between an employee and receiving organisation). PAS conducted a skills and location match where required. All staff remained on the payroll of their parent organisation, and managers were advised to maintain a level of contact during the assignment. These arrangements were put in place against a background of exceptional risk to the public service’s ability to respond to the need for critical patient care and essential services posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The public service came together and worked in a unified way. This availability of staff from across the public sector provides a key assurance to the health service and other public service bodies that, should it be required, they could draw upon to support in their efforts to combat COVID-19. The TAS panel can be scaled up or down as necessary. While this panel is currently scaled down, the policy and process will continue to be used to help ensure critical services continue to be delivered during this unprecedented time. The PAS may periodically issue detailed requests to organisations seeking employees who are deemed to be releasable for the scheme in the context of their business continuity plan. What results: what were the benefits of the solution, how does it work in practice, lessons learnt At its highest point there were 6,000 staff registered (within a four week period) for the scheme. The panels reduced as the immediate crisis abated and departments and sectors gradually moved back to a more ‘normal’ work pattern. In the end less than 100 staff were taken from the panel, this was due to: (a) the diligence of the Irish people which resulted in the anticipated surge being flattened, (b) the interventions taken pre-TAS policy where significant; redeployment had already taken place across all sectors and departments, for example, Health Service Executive (HSE) redeployed 5,000+ staff internally, (c) the TAS policy facilitated the ‘bi-lateral’ movement of staff prior to the actual TAS panel being set up in the PAS, where the initial focus was on contact tracing where 1,800 staff trained across all sectors and up to 700 staff deployed on a weekly basis at the start of the crisis. Within the Civil service, over 300 staff were also assigned at that time to the Department of Employment and Social Protection, and (d) there was also a call out to the public at large via a HSE on-line portal. In September 2020 we delivered on another request for contact tracing Phase 2 providing 50 staff from the civil service. The HSE, via budget 2020, have also upscaled their recruitment drive recognising that COVID-19 will have a longer permanent impact on the numbers required in the health service. We are continuing to work with the PAS, the HSE and other front line organisations to collectively review the Scheme to determine its use for current and future demands. The key lesson learned from the exercise is to ensure that the assignment of all processes should be coordinated to avoid duplication of effort with the ideal being a single system, i.e. the TAS or something similar. A big win from this policy is that for the first time we now have a scheme that facilitates the movement of identified staff across the civil and public service into crisis positions, which can be activated as needs arise during this and any future pandemics.