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Tuesday 13 August 2019

Fast streamers: What to do about postings uncertainty

By Elizabeth Houghton and Alex Jarvis
Cabinet-Office-847
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The political uncertainty of the past few weeks has in turn caused great uncertainty for both new and current fast streamers. The changes brought about by a new Government, and ongoing issues surrounding EU Exit, have meant members of the graduate scheme are still without postings and uncertain where they will be based in the autumn. This has left fast streamers unable to plan for the very near future.

The FDA is the only union recognised to represent fast streamers, and we have been working hard to get answers for our members. As the union’s Fast Stream Section convenors, we have been engaging with the Fast Stream and Early Talent Team (FSET). We pointed to the lessons learnt from earlier this year, when issues arose from the last round of EU Exit priority deployments, and reiterated the importance of clear communications during times of confusion. We will continue to work with FSET regarding their future messages to fast streamers over the coming weeks.

We have been reassured that FSET are working to uphold the professional development principles of the Fast Stream, though we understand that they have faced pressures from other departments to use us as a contingent labour work. We will be working with them to ensure this does not happen.

In this situation we feel we can better serve the interests of fast streamers by working with FSET as a critical friend, and we will approach our engagement with them from that position. We recognise that the pressures around EU Exit planning are not of FSET’s choosing and they have responded positively and constructively to our advocacy on behalf of members.

The next few months will undoubtedly be ambiguous. We believe the best way to guard against unnecessary additional stress is to be well prepared for different eventualities. In advance of beginning new postings, we would strongly advise members to: 

  • Have reasonable adjustment and relocation restriction conversations with your Cohort Leaders as a matter of urgency. It will be important that FSET has a record of any physical or mental health concerns before a posting begins.  We would advise notifying them in writing from an account you will continue to have access to following your change of posting.
  • If you have a history of any physical or mental health concerns that may be triggered by a high stress environment, flag this with your Cohort Leader so they are aware should symptoms manifest. Again, we would advise that this notification is done in writing.
  • Overtime will be administered through Workday, so ensure your Activity Manager knows that they will have to action this through Workday in order for you to get paid. We would also advise keeping a personal log of hours worked should you need to provide evidence. The overtime policy is available on the FS intranet; we will work with FSET to provide worked examples of overtime payment.
  • Remember, the Working Time Regulations 1998 guarantee certain basic rights regarding shift work. You can find out more through the Health and Safety Executive website
  • According to these regulations, you have entitlement to a rest period of 11 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period during which they work for their employer. Effectively, this means that you must be given 11 hours to go home between shifts. You cannot work a day shift immediately followed by a night shift.
  • The Working Time Regulations also stipulate that an adult worker is also entitled to one day off a week; this can be averaged over two weeks. Effectively, this means that you should get at least two days off a fortnight.
  • If you have leave planned at any point from September to November, check whether your travel insurance policy offers cancellation cover for employees of a government department that have their authorised leave cancelled or are called up for operational reasons.

FSET have committed to ensure that any relocation costs incurred by fast streamers will be covered so you are not penalised financially. We would again suggest having conversations with Cohort Leaders soon and in writing and keeping a written record of costs incurred.

Finally, if you are not already a member, we urge you to join the FDA today. Fast streamers receive the first six months of membership for free, and once you are part of the union we will be able to help you with any difficulties you experience, providing advice, guidance and representation as appropriate.

We will be looking to hold Town Hall events on EU Exit, and its impact on fast streamers, in September and October. We will be sending out additional details to members about these soon.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, queries or concerns, please get in touch by emailing elizabeth.houghton@faststream.civilservice.gov.uk or alexander.jarvis@homeoffice.gov.uk.


Elizabeth Houghton and Alex Jarvis are the FDA Fast Stream Section's Co-convenors.

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