The NHS is committed to the principles of partnership working and staff involvement. Partnership underpins and facilitates the development of sound and effective employee relations throughout the NHS. The participation of trade union representatives in the partnership process and effective staff engagement can contribute to delivering improved services to patients and users.
The COVID-19 pandemic will place the NHS and its staff under unprecedented pressure, and it is essential these principles are maintained during this difficult time. By working together in partnership, employers and trade unions can help ensure any temporary measures related to staff policies and procedures are fair, safe and as effective as possible.
The national Social Partnership Forum (SPF), agreed a statement on industrial relations during COVID-19, which includes the role of trade unions in staff engagement, the importance of facilities time and the likely requirement to agree streamlined working relationships with trade union representatives. The statement also covers the potential for pausing disciplinary and employment procedures and the need to avoid industrial disputes. These measures will help maintain an effective partnership response to the pandemic.
It is recognised that during the period of the emergency, trade union and other staff representatives may require additional time off and facilities to fully participate in local partnership processes. Employers should ensure representatives are allowed the time and facilities needed to carry out their duties and be fully involved in the local partnership arrangements, in order to best support staff.