Employee Handbook

About your Employee Handbook

The purpose of the employee handbook is to give you information about Reading Borough Council and what you can expect from us as your employer and what in turn we expect from you during the time you are employed by us.

Detailed information on all the policies and procedures referred to in this handbook and others relating to Reading and its values can be found on our intranet. If you do not have access then please talk to your manager to obtain copies of the policies.

This employee handbook should be read alongside your contract of employment. The content of the handbook will be subject to change as the Council revises its policies, but if there are any inconsistencies between the handbook and your contract of employment, the terms within your contract of employment will take precedence.

Corporate Plan and values

Our Corporate Plan shows our service priorities for the coming three years. The priorities are agreed at Policy and Full Council meetings.

It is updated every year to ensure it responds to the changing needs in Reading and so we can prioritise our spending and where staff need to focus their efforts.
Corporate Plan

How does the Council work?

The Council is divided into 3 directorates:

  • Social Care & Health
  • Economic Growth & Neighbourhood Services
  • Resources

Each directorate has Assistant Directors managing individual service areas, and together with our Executive Directors, work together as Directorate Management Teams. The Corporate Management Team is comprised of the Chief Executive, Executive Directors and the Council Monitoring Officer.

Children’s Services in Reading is delivered by an independent, wholly-Council owned company called Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC). BFfC was established in 2018 to deliver the best possible opportunities for the children of Reading and works in partnership with the Council.

Working in partnership

The Council works very closely with a range of voluntary, public and private sector organisations in the town, on a number of projects, programmes and initiatives. We also work closely with other organisations including Thames Valley Police on community safety matters and the Berkshire HealthCare Foundation Trust providing NHS services.

Political organisation of the Council

Councillors (also known as elected Members) are elected by residents to represent them on the Council. There are elections every four years. A detailed breakdown of party numbers and councillors.

The majority political party selects the Leader of the Council. The Leader also has a deputy. It is the Leader’s responsibility along with other “Lead” Councillors to decide the broad direction for the Council’s future and the services and improvements that it makes. Each Lead Councillor will have a specific area of responsibility and is accountable for the Council’s everyday decision-making process.

The Mayor

The Mayor is the first citizen of the borough and is the ceremonial head of the Council. The Mayor represents the borough on all important civic occasions.

The Mayor carries out extensive programmes of visits during the 1 year term in office, with a wide range of organisations and raises money for the designated
charities.

Working with councillors

You may have direct dealings with councillors or you may be responsible for contributing to the provision of information for councillors. This will be an important part of your role as a Council employee and your manager will brief you and support you in this role. It is important that political neutrality in your role as a Council officer is maintained in any dealings with councillors.

Working in Reading

Equality

Reading Borough Council is committed to providing and promoting equality for all of its staff and customers as well as the wider community. We strive to incorporate equality and diversity into everything we do, so that it is an integral part of our business.

As part of your induction process you will be asked to undertake a mandatory online equality programme.

Induction

Your manager will meet with you as soon as possible after you commence work at Reading. You will be taken through an induction programme which will include online learning activities. Your manager will explain any local protocols and priorities within your service area.

Performance and monitoring

Your manager will discuss with you through regular 1-2-1 supervision meetings your individual targets and performance measures. These will be reviewed at an annual appraisal and, depending on your position within the pay grades, successful satisfactory completion of targets will enable incremental pay progression.

As a manager

If you are a manager then there will be additional induction training for you to ensure that you are equipped to manage your service and staff effectively at Reading Borough Council.

Communication

Communication is most effective when it is two way, your 121 meeting and team meetings will give you an opportunity to discuss matters with your manager.

We also value your feedback and staff consultation and staff surveys enable you to give us your input.

Our intranet is an online resource with a wide range of information, policies and procedures.

The intranet contains:

  • Information on salaries, HR policies and procedures, benefits and training
  • Information from other teams and services to help you in your work
  • Staff contact directory
  • Interactive message boards, blogs and information about what’s going on around the organisation

The media team

You may occasionally pick up a phone call from a journalist from local TV, radio or online media. If this happens, tell them politely that you will transfer their call to the media team on 72301, do not try to answer the question however simple it may be.

Standards of conduct

Reading residents are entitled to demand the highest standards of conduct from all employees at Reading Borough Council. Your activities as a member of external companies or voluntary organisations are also subject to these high standards which can be found in the Code of Conduct.

Whistleblowing

The Council’s whistleblowing policy ensures that you are able to raise concerns of any reasonable suspicion of illegal or improper conduct without fear of recrimination. Concerns of illegal or improper conduct include:

  • Conduct which is an offence or a breach of the law
  • Serious health and safety risks
  • The unauthorised use of public funds
  • Possible fraud and corruption
  • Sexual, physical and verbal abuse, or bullying or intimidation of employees, customers or service users
  • Abuse of authority

Political neutrality

As an employee you serve the Council as a whole, and it is important that all Councillors are served equally not just those of a particular political group. You must not allow your own personal or political opinions to interfere with your work.

Disclosure of information and confidentiality

As an employee you must treat all information about individuals, including other employees, customers and service users with confidentiality and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. All reasonable steps must be taken to protect and safeguard confidential documents and must comply with Data Protection legislation.

You must not use any information obtained in the course of your employment for personal gain or benefit, and you must not pass such information on to others unless they are legally entitled to receive it.

Corruption and financial resources

You must be aware that it is a serious offence for you to receive or give any gift, loan, fee, rewards or advantage for doing, or not doing, anything or showing favour, or disfavour, to any person in your official capacity.

Hospitality

In certain circumstances, receiving hospitality may be acceptable. Where that is the case, you must discuss it with your manager and the details – the type of hospitality offered and the person/organisation offering it – should be recorded in a register maintained by your directorate.

Examples of generally acceptable hospitality are:

  • Invitations to attend events where you represent the Council
  • Hospitality offered by other public sector organisations or recognised civic or government bodies that have links with the Council
  • A working lunch or other meal which allows the work or discussion to continue during the course of the day
  • An event where the Council should be seen to be represented.
  • Hospitality to mark the completion of a transaction or piece of work provided it has been successfully concluded and the nature of the hospitality is reasonable
  • Where the Council is a regular client of an organisation or firm and the hospitality is being offered to a number of clients in the ordinary course of the business.

Examples of hospitality which should be declined include:

  • Offers of hotel accommodation or other form of holiday
  • Free use of other forms of leisure, sports or entertainment facilities or equipment

Standing orders

The Council has agreed a constitution which sets out how we operate, how decisions are made and the procedures we follow to ensure that these are efficient, transparent and accountable to local people. Some of these processes are required by the law, while others are a matter for the Council to choose. The Constitution sets out the basic rules governing the Council’s business and contains detailed procedures and Codes of Practice for example. ‘Financial Procedure Rules’ which set out the financial policies, procedures and the framework for managing the Council’s financial affairs and ‘Contract Procedure Rules’ must be followed when the Council purchases the supplies, services and works it needs to deliver services (known as procurement). Other rules which are incorporated into the Council’s constitution are the Council’s Budget and Policy Framework, Employment rules and Council & Committee Procedure Rules (Standing Orders).

What you wear

Whatever your role, you should dress in a manner that is appropriate for your job function and environment. Managers are responsible for setting and maintaining these standards. If a uniform is required, and supplied for your role, then you should wear it.

The Reading offer

Probation period

Most new employees serve a minimum of 6 months’ probation.

It is important that you meet with your manager as soon as possible to start discussing what is expected of you so that you can ensure you pass your probation. You will have regular meetings during the probationary period to discuss progress and agree any requirements for improvement, deadlines and workload. Your employment may be terminated if your conduct, performance or attendance is unsatisfactory.

Salary

Details of your grade and salary are shown in your contract of employment. Your salary will be paid into your bank account on or by the 25th day of each month.

Payslips will be delivered electronically either through Employee Self Service or a nominated email account.

Employee self service

When you join the Council you will be sent an email with details on how to access Employee Self Service.
The site allows you to access and amend personal information such as your home address and bank account details. Employee Self Service is also be used to input mileage and expenses claims, book annual leave and record sick absence and where you can view your payslips and P60s.

This service can be accessed from any internet enabled computer or device using the employee self service website.

If you have any queries please email Employment.Services@reading.gov.uk.

Driver check

Anyone who is required to drive during the course of their work, whether it’s their own car or a Council vehicle, must have a driver check in place. No mileage claim will be paid without these.

A Driving Licence Checks Form must be completed. This form can be found on the intranet.

Rewarding work

  • Your starting salary will depend on the role you are carrying out, but staff have the potential to move up with increments based on performance related progression.
  • National pay awards can be applied to increase your salary. From there, your salary may increase as you take on more responsibility.
  • We will pay overtime when required at time and a half Monday-Saturday and double time on a Sunday.
  • We will reimburse you for additional costs you incur as a result of your work with us such as travel, car and cycle mileage and overnight accommodation based on our agreed rates

Flexible and family-friendly

The Council offers flexible working options.

We are committed to providing a wide range of positive working patterns such as 9 day fortnight and part time, flexi time and home working etc. Employees in most areas and at all levels may be considered for flexible workstyle regardless of personal circumstances, seniority, current working pattern, employment status (permanent/fixed term), although the ability to work flexibly will depend very much on the job you do and the service area.

  • We have a generous holiday entitlement – a minimum of 24 days a year (plus bank holidays), rising to 32 after 10 years’ service with Reading Borough Council, with the opportunity to buy annual leave.
  • Arrangements for school based staff can vary for things like annual leave or working pattern so you will need to refer to your contract and terms and conditions, or contact the school directly.
  • We provide an onsite nursery (the Kennet Day nursery) at our Civic Offices, employees can join the waiting list for places; fees will be taken direct from salary.
  • We are an accredited Living Wage Employer which means we pay not just the minimum wage but the Living Wage. The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually, based on the cost of living in the UK.
  • We can help you to keep active, you can join the Walking Wednesdays group, and other health related discount offers can be accessed when available.
  • We provide a range of family friendly provisions catering from 0-18 years including maternity, paternity, parental and adoption leave. We also recognise that at times you may have caring responsibilities for other dependants and provide other leave in addition to career breaks.

Organisational change

Change is a fact of life for us and from time to time it will be necessary to change jobs, teams and/or services. This may end up in redeployment, job relocation or redundancy. The Council would seek to redeploy staff wherever possible and sets out how it will do that in the Employment Stability Agreement.

Occupational health

The Council’s Occupational Health service is provided by COPE and is located on level 1 of the Civic Offices.

The doctor or nurse provides advice, information and support to management and employees on sickness issues relating to work, they provide a written opinion on suitability for employment, review on-going situations as appropriate, in relation to a member of staff’s current job role or future employment. You can only see Occupational Health if you have been referred by your manager.

Employment Assistance Programme

The programme is available to all staff and provides telephone access to a range of advice, information and personal support and counselling.

The team of information specialists can give you advice on issues such as consumer and statutory rights, state benefits, landlord and tenant problems, dealing with noisy neighbours or tackling debt.

Highly experienced counsellors can give you practical support on issues such as dealing with stress, relationship problems, bereavement or improving your assertiveness skills.

Contact them at:

Freephone: 0800 243 458
Email: assistance@workplaceoptions.com
Website: www.workplaceoptions.com
Outside the UK: +44 (0)20 8987 6550
SMS (for callback): +44 (0)7909 341229

Health and wellbeing

  • We have a health and wellbeing programme and take an active part in the Healthy Workplace Challenge.
  • We have ample cycle facilities including lockers, showers and drying facilities at the Civic Offices.
  • We also provide free eye checks if you use display screen equipment.
  • When it comes to the social side of things, we have our Staff Club that runs a range of events like pub quizzes and theatre trips.
  • In addition to the EAP service there is access to a free chaplaincy service.

If you become unwell

If you are unwell and unable to attend work it is your responsibility to speak directly to your manager, this should happen before your scheduled start time. You should give a clear indication of the nature of the illness and a likely return date. If your absence is for more than 7 days then a doctor’s certificate will be required.

You must keep your manager informed throughout your period of sickness absence; on occasions your manager may need to contact you. Some teams will have local arrangements to meet the needs of their service; these procedures will be communicated to you.

A return to work interview will be carried out by your manager once you return in order to discuss the reason for the absence and to establish any further support that may be required.

Sickness benefit is paid commencing with 1 month’s full pay after working here for 4 months (except teachers who have a different contractual entitlement).

Time off for appointments

The Council recognises that employees will from time to time need to attend medical, hospital, dental, optician and other similar appointments. Whenever it is possible to do so, employees (both full time and part time) should arrange appointments in their own time or, if this is not possible, then at times that will cause the minimum amount of absence from work or inconvenience to the Council.

However, because the Council accepts that it is not always possible or practical to arrange medical and other similar appointments outside working hours, it is the Council’s policy to permit reasonable time off work for such appointments. Your manager may ask to see an appointment card and you should show this if asked.

Provided that an employee gives his/her line manager reasonable notice of the date and time of an appointment, time off with pay will normally be granted.

The Council has a policy statement supporting staff with disabilities and medical conditions which can be found on the intranet.

Employees who are pregnant have a statutory right not to be unreasonably refused time off work with pay for antenatal appointments on medical advice.

Relocating to the area

If you are thinking of moving here, depending on your role and with prior approval, we offer a relocation scheme that helps you make the transition easier providing funding of up to £8,000. Our offer includes help with stamp duty, removal and rental/estate agency fees along with other items.

Travelling on Council business

Any employee using public transport to travel on Council business, should use standard class travel and make an approved expenses claim. Day returns, season tickets, rail cards or other rail concessions are to be used if savings would result. Employees should select the most cost effective form of travelling, balancing travel time with direct costs incurred.

Pool cars are available for those employees that wish to use them for Council business. Details on how to make use of this provision can be found on the intranet.

A learning organisation

You will have access to a range of training and development opportunities to further your experience at Reading. Some of our specific programmes include:

  • Your Welcome – on your first day with us you will undertake our online induction and learn about the way we work
  • Our Apprenticeship Programme – we provide training opportunities within the council
  • Manager Development Programme – for everyone who manages people who will need an organisation wide perspective to be more effective in their roles
  • In addition to corporate training opportunities, specific site or school based training is also available
  • We will provide exam and study leave where appropriate

Safety first

We take your health, safety and wellbeing very seriously. Your safety whilst working with us is paramount – every member of staff undertakes basic health and safety training. Additional management or specialist training is provided if this is required. You can use our Identicom system which is a dedicated lone worker safety device. They are in the form of an ID badge. The Identicom is a discreet and effective solution for those at risk from physical and verbal abuse and accidents in the workplace. It can store multiple GPS locations via GPRS. The benefit of this is that these real time locations are available through an online tracking application.

We also have our Incheck Database that you can check before you meet anyone to see if they present a risk. Our Customer Hub in the Civic Offices has interview rooms with CCTV and panic buttons as well as separate entry and exits.

Planning ahead

You will have access to the Local Government Pension Scheme or Teachers’ Pension Scheme – you will pay in a percentage of your salary and we will pay a percentage depending on your salary level. You can also opt to pay in Additional Voluntary Contributions to improve your pension. You will get death in service benefit to the value of three times your salary. You will also have access to a Credit Union.

Feel good by donating to charity

The Council supports a number of initiatives to enable our staff to make the most of their donations to charity including national and local payroll giving.

Staff benefits

Our staff benefits scheme offers a range of discounts and benefits to staff including reloadable shopping cards for many high street stores and supermarkets.
A number of local businesses in Reading offer staff a discount or benefit which change from time to time. Staff can also enjoy a range of offers and discounts on days out, health clubs, holidays and breakdown cover.

More information can be found on our Team Reading rewards website.

Resolving issues at work

Grievances

We encourage open communication between you and your manager to ensure any issues are resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of all concerned. In this way, your line manager will support you through informal discussions to resolve the problem. If the problem persists, you can use our Grievance Policy.

Disciplinary procedure

We are committed to being a fair and reasonable employer. You are required to demonstrate appropriate behaviour standards and at all times conform to our policies, practices and procedures.

Wherever possible, we will seek to resolve issues about conduct on an informal basis. In most cases, managers will identify any shortcomings in conduct or behaviour via day to day supervisory performance management processes, providing appropriate feedback and support. However, there may be occasions where the issue needs to be addressed formally via the Disciplinary policy and procedure.

Capability ill-health

We appreciate that on occasions we are all unwell and are prevented from attending work, but the Council has a responsibility to maintain service delivery and minimise disruption. We therefore need to manage sickness absence and believe that we are all responsible for working together to achieve a positive attendance culture.

If your manager thinks that your sickness level is of concern then they will discuss this with you to look at what further action is required to improve your attendance and wellbeing.

Capability poor performance

We all have individual job roles and responsibilities; these will be discussed with you at your 121 meetings and annually at your appraisal. If at any time your manager thinks that you are not performing at the level which is required then they will discuss this with you. This is an opportunity to explore the issues and to put in place any support or training to help. If the level of performance continues to be of concern then the matter may be discussed at a more formal level.

Respect and dignity at work

The Council respects and values the diversity of individuals and embraces equality and diversity in everything that we do. Harassment and bullying is unlawful, and failure to comply with the required standards of behaviour will not be tolerated or condoned in the workplace. As with all issues, we would encourage you to speak to your manager, if this is possible. You will be supported to try and find an informal resolution wherever possible. If this is not possible then a more formal approach is available.

Employee support

The Council supports the principles of collective bargaining and consultation and recognises a number of trade unions. We are proud of our commitment to good industrial relations and we encourage you to join a recognised trade union.

There are trade union representatives (who are employees) across directorates who are provided with appropriate facilities time in accordance with statutory requirements, to meet with managers and provide support to employees and promote good employee relations practice.