Staff rights

A Working for an MP Guide
Staff rights (from the Unite staff branch)
First Published 7 May 2010 w4mp
Last Updated 30 January 2012 w4mp
Last Reviewed 1 January 2014 w4mp
Unamended version copied from old Guide
The Unite Parliamentary Staff Branch currently represents almost 500 members of staff who work for MPs from all sides of the House. The Branch has been in existence for more than 25 years, run a number of successful campaigns and represented hundreds of staff in disputes with their bosses. The information below is supplied by them.

The relationship between staff, MPs and the House of Commons is a complicated one and it is important to know what you are entitled to and what rights you have as an employee.  Representatives of the Union are always here to help if you have specific issues that are troubling you and we have many well-trained shop stewards who can represent you if need be.  This section will deal briefly with your basic rights.

Pay

The latest payscales are available on the W4MP website (http://www.w4mp.org/html/library/salaries/general.asp).  Recommended payscales are provided by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and, as a Union, we wouldn’t want to see anyone who is fulfilling a role getting paid at less than these.  We’d recommend that you keep a check list of responsibilities that you are asked to take on and what your job entails; then, after a reasonable period of being in the job, say 3-6 months, review it and compare with the job description for the payscale you’ve been put on.  If you feel you are not receiving the correct salary, ask your MP to review it.

The staffing budget, from which your wages are drawn, has been increased annually in line with inflation; however, this is not automatically passed on to you.  Wages both in the public and private sector rise alongside inflation so it is right that your MP should instruct IPSA to raise your salary by amending your contract (your contract says that they will review it annually).  When the beginning of the financial year (April 1) rolls round, raise this with your MP and ask him/her to instruct IPSA to ask that the increase be passed on.

A contract is a requirement for all staff and payment of salaries will depend on this; so you must pursue this with your MP if s/he hasn’t provided it.

IPSA will pay MPs’ staff salaries after the election. To smooth the transition the House will continue to administer the salaries of re-elected MPs’ existing staff up to and including the month of May 2010.

Contracts etc

It is a major concern of the Branch that many members of staff do not have contracts of employment at all.  It is against the law for you to work and receive a salary without a contract. Everyone should have the standard one that is put together by IPSA and you can get it by emailing info@parliamentarystandards.org.uk.

We intended to include a section here to cover various entitlements such as holiday, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave, as well as hours of work. However, at the time of preparing this booklet, we were advised by IPSA that “entitlements will be confirmed by IPSA in due course”. Some information is now available here: http://www.ipsa-home.org.uk/InfoForMpsandStaff.html.

Pension

Under the existing arrangements, as soon as you are set up with a contract and getting paid from IPSA, you will be enrolled in the Portcullis Pension Plan.  10% of your total earnings will be paid by the House to the pension provider.  You will receive information through the post on this and more is available at http://intranet.parliament.uk/intranet/finances/assets/ppp_intro.pdf.

Union membership

There are a number of groups and organisations that you can join and get involved in that represent staff interests.  The largest of these is the Unite (Parliamentary Staff) Branch, with just under 500 members.  Our page on the W4MP website is at www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/tgwu/default.asp.  Other groups include the Members and Peers Staff Association ( check the index page), alongside other staff groups, which do not offer professional legal advice and are more oriented towards which political party you may belong to. More details can be found at http://www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/represent.aspDetails are likely to be need updating after the election.

Occupational Health and other entitlements

Any employee who uses a computer for their work is entitled to a free eye test paid for by their employer.  If they did not need glasses before, and the eye test confirms that they now need them for work involving the computer, they can submit this receipt and it will be paid for out of the MPs’ office allowances.  This is a legal right, and the fact that the MPs are reluctant to pay for it is because at present it comes out of their expenses.  This rule is national, and applies to everyone, regardless of who employs them.  You will need to check if there is a limit to the amount which can be claimed.

Regarding sick leave: staff must self-certificate, but the forms must come from your employer – the MP.  Most MPs don’t want to be bothered with it.  At the time of preparing this booklet, we were advised by IPSA that their position on self-certification and money available to pay for a temporary replacement “is not yet confirmed”.

The final thing to make you aware of is the Speakers’ Fund which matches funding for security arrangements in constituency offices – like the eye tests, our survey showed there is not a big enough take-up of this. From time to time very difficult – and occasionally threatening – people may visit your office and/or surgeries. Where the local police advise, the House will contribute to the costs of security measures taken to safeguard Members, their staff and their equipment at their constituency office or surgery; see http://intranet.parliament.uk/finances/allowances/security.Now that IPSA are responsible for administering expenses you need to look at their website as well  ( www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk/).  Click on the blue box marked ‘New Expenses scheme for MPs’; then on Miscellaneous expenses > Security Assistance. Or try:  www.ipsa-home.org.uk/Expenses_Security_Assistance.html; it’s in sections 12.6 to 12.10 and covers what financial help you can get to cover “measures necessary to safeguard the Member, or the Member’s staff or equipment at any location outside the Parliamentary Estate where assistance towards the provision of such measures is not available from the House of Commons”.

If you are at Westminster, pop into the Members’ Centre in Portcullis House and see the Occupational Health person there. Although they are not obliged to advise you as a staffer, they are incredibly helpful and will certainly do their best to point you in the right direction.

Training/inductions

Capita organise a wide range of training courses on skills such as effective writing, dealing with the media, interview skills, as well as very specific courses, for example immigration law.  Further details can be found at http://www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/training/default.asp.  It’s in both your own and your employer’s best interest for you to be as fully trained as possible so make sure you keep an eye out for ongoing training that’s put on by Capita and your parliamentary party will arrange various sessions also.

We’d also recommend that you book a Library tour as early as possible into your employment as this is an invaluable tool for researchers; they can be contacted on 3666.

IPSA will provide training for MPs’ staff on the expenses system and guidance in June 2010. Written guidance on using the expenses system will be available in due course from the IPSA website.

A word on interns

The Unite Branch has a number of members who are currently interning in Parliament. The work that they do for MPs is invaluable and many offices could not survive without the help they get from interns.  The Branch has been campaigning to make interns aware of their rights and secure a minimum wage.  If an employer asks a member of staff to work set hours and to perform tasks that they rely on, the law states that they must pay the minimum wage.  We recognise the place that internships have in allowing people to gain experience but we do not want to see anyone get exploited and also feel that there are inherent issues of accessibility to employment around this.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend taking an internship and then marching in on your first day and demanding a wage as most MPs use the majority of their staffing budget.

If you feel you are being asked to do work outside your position of an intern, please do get in touch with a staff representation body, such as the Unite Branch and/or the Department of Resources (DR) Personnel Advice Service (PAS) for advice.  DR will still have PAS after IPSA has taken over but questions on payroll will need to go via the payroll team at IPSA – payroll@parliamentarystandards.org.uk

For more guidance on internships see our two guides: one for managers and one for interns – check the index page.

Staff groups you can join

Have a look at the page on W4MP which links you to a whole range of Party, social and sporting groups which you can join: http://www.w4mp.org/support-in-your-job/2010-guide-to-working-for-an-mp-for-new-staff/groups-which-staff-can-join/ . Some of these groups come and go pretty quickly so we can’t always guarantee the list is up to date but it’s worth checking them out.


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