US government makes ‘commitment to reproductive healthcare’ in sick leave rules; UK Cabinet Office staff wellbeing plummets: management & workforce news in brief

By on 07/07/2022 | Updated on 07/07/2022
A Planned Parenthood facility in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Fibonacci Blue, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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US feds allowed to use sick leave to travel for medical care

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published a factsheet on Monday stressing that federal government employees can use paid sick leave if they need to travel across state lines for medical care.

Though the agency did not state that it had put the FAQs together in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last month to overturn Roe v. Wade, enabling states to pass ‘trigger laws’ banning abortion, the White House described the document as a “commitment to reproductive healthcare”.

While travel to receive medical examination or treatment “will generally be short distances – for example, to and from a local doctor’s office or hospital – an employee may find it necessary to travel longer distances, including out of state, to obtain medical care. In such instances, sick leave may be used to cover necessary travel time,” the document said.

It also stated that employees can use sick leave to cover travel time when accompanying a family member to receive medical care. In both cases, agencies must grant sick leave as long as the employee complies with its usual notification and certification requirements.

It added: “For an absence in excess of three workdays (or a lesser period when determined necessary by the agency), an agency may require the employee to provide a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable evidence. A medical certificate simply means a written statement signed by a physician or other practitioner certifying that the employee received an examination or treatment; it need not contain details regarding the medical examination or treatment.”

In cases where an employee has not accrued sufficient sick leave, an agency may grant advanced sick leave.

Hundreds of thousands of government employees live in states that have either passed the trigger laws or have said they intend to do so, or in states where legislation banning abortion was already in place.  

UK Cabinet Office staff wellbeing falls dramatically, leaked survey results show

A survey of nearly 2,000 Cabinet Office staff carried out in May showed a significant fall in wellbeing compared with the same survey a year ago.

Just over a quarter of respondents (26%) said they had been feeling “good” or “very good” over the past week, representing a 16% drop since July 2021 when responses to the previous survey were gathered. Thirty five per cent said they felt “not good” or “not at all good”, and 39% said they felt “okay”.

Read more: Exclusive: experts on the impact of 91,000 job cuts in the UK civil service

The majority of respondents (35%) said they disagreed or strongly disagreed that the Cabinet Office was providing them with good support for their health, wellbeing, and resilience. A third (33%) said they agreed or strongly agreed.

Around a quarter of respondents (24%) said they believed that the Cabinet Office’s senior leaders had a clear vision for the future of the department. This was a 25% fall compared with last summer’s findings. The department’s target was 54%.

“We are committed to making the Cabinet Office a great place to work, which is why we regularly seek the views of our staff. This was a snapshot survey and the results represent less than 30% of Cabinet Office staff in terms of response rate,” a government spokesperson told PoliticsHome, which revealed the findings.

The survey also revealed dissatisfaction with the way hybrid working had been handled at the department. The survey said respondents wanted “clearer guidance and less pressure to return to office and more consideration of flexible working benefits”.

Hong Kong proposes 2.5% pay rise for civil servants

Hong Kong’s civil servants may receive a 2.5% pay rise, after the special administrative region’s chief executive John Lee and his executive council approved a proposal on Tuesday.

The government is understood to have met with four civil servant consultative councils on Wednesday, and according to the secretary for the civil service Ingrid Yeung will aim to submit a proposal to the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee this year.

Read more: Hong Kong civil servants sacked or quit after refusing to take allegiance oath

The proposed pay rise is below that put forward in the 2022 Pay Trend Survey report, published in May, which would have meant a net increase of 7.2% for senior staff, 4.55% for middle-rank employees and 2.04% for lower-ranked staff.

Yeung said that net pay trend indicators had “never been the sole consideration in civil service pay adjustment,” and that the government also took into consideration factors including the increase in the cost of living, and the economic situation.

Belgian officials set for pay boost against backdrop of ‘war for talent’

Belgium’s minister of the civil service has struck a preliminary agreement with trade unions to boost civil servants’ reward packages by as much as 7% after a prolonged pay dispute.

The deal marks the first time in 12 years that a broad agreement on pay has been reached between the government and the trade unions representing civil servants.

Read more: Belgian officials set for pay boost as government joins global warnings of ‘war for talent’ for civil servants

Petra De Sutter, who also serves as federal deputy prime minister, said the deal was vital amid recruitment challenges that the government is facing. “This agreement responds to the war for talent that all employers are confronted with today.”

De Sutter added that it was “only natural” that federal employees’ wages increase in this context. The package, which represents between a 3% to 7% pay boost, is made up of an €200 (US$209) gross extra income per month, as well as higher end-of-year bonuses, meal vouchers and a wage surcharge.

If the package is approved, the pay rise could come into effect from 1 January 2023.

Read more: Belgian civil servants granted ‘right to disconnect’ after working hours

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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