Haddington Road hours
Report of Independent Body
Frequently Asked Questions
Last updated 19th April 2022
What is the ‘Independent Body’?
The ‘Independent Body Examining Additional Working Hours (HRA) in the Public Service’ was established under the Building Momentum public service agreement, which is currently in place. It was tasked with making recommendations to address the additional working time introduced for many civil and public servants under the 2013 Haddington Road Agreement.
The Body is chaired by Kieran Mulvey, the former chief executive of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). It also includes two union nominees, two management nominees, and two independent experts nominated by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
The Body was established in 2021, and invited submissions from unions and employer representatives. Fórsa and other unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) made a joint written submission in June 2021, which you can read HERE. The unions also made a supplementary written submission in October 2021. This addressed the arguments in the initial management submission, and you can read it HERE.
Led by Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan, the officers of the ICTU Public Services Committee attended a number of oral hearings of the Body, and maintained regular liaison with the union nominees to the Body. In the late-2019 negotiations on Building Momentum, Fórsa had insisted that remaining HRA issues, including the additional hours, must be addressed and resolved in order to reach a deal.
The Building Momentum agreement includes a commitment that the Body would report by the end of 2021. As its report was still being finalised at the end of 2021, the Body issued its recommendations to the parties in early January 2022. The full report is expected to be published shortly.
What did the Independent Body recommend?
The Independent Body recommended that working time be restored to pre-Haddington Road agreement (HRA) levels for virtually all civil servants, public servants and non-commercial State agency staff in grades where working hours were increased in 2013. However, it added that there should be a standardised minimum full-time working week of 35 hours across the public service. (See also ‘are any grades excluded from the recommendation?’ below).
What if I don’t work full time?
Part-time staff, job-sharers and others with flexible working arrangements in the affected grades will have their working time reduced on a pro-rata basis.
What restoration timetable did the Body recommend?
It recommended that the restoration of the hours should take effect, in full, from 1st July 2022. In making this recommendation, the Independent Body said it had taken account of the nine-year period in which the additional hours have been worked, the strain on the staff working the hours, and the “truly committed efforts of staff during the last two years in meeting patient, healthcare, population vaccine, security needs and the requirements of delivery for existing and new social welfare and pandemic payment measures.”
Does the recommendation apply to staff recruited after 1st July 2013?
Yes. The recommendation applies to all staff in the grades affected, including those who joined the public service after the additional working hours were introduced in 2013.
Are any grades excluded from the recommendation?
The recommendation only applies to staff in grades where working time was increased under the 2013 Haddington Road agreement.
A relatively small number of affected public servants worked fewer than 35 full-time weekly working hours before the additional working time was introduced. Under the Body’s recommendation, their working time will be reduced to 35 hours, which will be the standard minimum full-time working hours in the civil and public service.
For reasons set out by the Independent Body, a number of non-Fórsa grades – teachers, hospital consultants and academics – were excluded from its recommendation.
How does the recommendation affect overtime payments?
The unions’ June 2021 submission to the Independent Body included details of how the additional hours had affected overtime ‘divisors,’ which determine the calculation of overtime payments in different parts of the public service. The Body’s January 2022 recommendation says that overtime divisors should be a matter for further direct discussions between the parties.
What were the additional hours introduced under the Haddington Road agreement?
Under the Haddington Road agreement (HRA), the hours of civil servants, public servants and many State agency staff were increased as follows:
- Those with a pre-HRA working week of 35 hours or less (net of rest breaks) had their weekly hours increased to a minimum of 37
- Those with a pre-HRA working week greater than 35 hours, but less than 39 hours (net of rest breaks), had their weekly hours increased to 39
- The hours of those working 39 hours or more per week remained the same.
In most cases, the additional hours were added to the length of each working day. For example, a civil service working day of 6 hours and 57 minutes (net of rest breaks) increased to 7 hours and 24 minutes. Those on shift work had the additional time added to pre-existing shift patterns. In some grades (eg, nursing) the additional hours were expressed as additional shifts over the course of a year. For driver-testers, they came in the form of an additional test performed each working day.
Were the additional hours agreed or imposed?
The Haddington Road agreement, which included the additional working hours, was accepted following union ballots, which were extremely close and divisive. But, though technically introduced by agreement, the additional HRA hours are perceived as having been imposed. This is because they were explicitly presented as the sole alternative to a third pay cut for low-paid and middle-income public servants, who had already sustained substantial pay cuts in 2009 and 2010. You can read more on the background to the HRA negotiation and outcome in the unions’ written submission to the Independent Body.
How were the Independent Body’s recommendations received?
Fórsa and other unions welcomed both the recommendation and the improved implementation timetable, which emerged on 11th January 2022. Fórsa’s National Executive met in special session that day, and agreed that the outcome was a vindication of the union’s strategy for addressing the issue, which included working with other unions to get it included on the agenda for the Building Momentum talks and holding out to ensure a concrete outcome from the process set up under the agreement.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said he would consider the Independent Body’s full report when it issues. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the media that the unpaid hours were unfair and “never intended to be permanent.” Labour’s Brendan Howlin, who was public expenditure minister when the hours were introduced, also confirmed that, at the time, they were seen as a temporary emergency measure.
What if I’ve been promoted or changed jobs since the HRA hours were introduced?
Working hours vary across different public service grades and your working time is determined by the grade you are working in. So, if you’ve been promoted to a grade that worked 37 hours prior to the introduction of the HRA hours, you will be on 37 hours following the return to pre-HRA hours. If the grade you’re promoted to worked 35 hours prior to HRA, you will revert to 35 hours following the restoration of the Haddington Road hours.
What’s the significance of the implementation date?
In its recommendation, the Independent Body noted that 1st July 2022 would be the ninth anniversary of the implementation of the additional hours. It also noted that full pay restoration for the highest paid civil and public servants (who endured a third pay cut under the Haddington Road agreement) would take place on the same date.
Can I continue to work fewer than 35 hours with a commensurate reduction in pay?
Over the past few years, some civil and public servants took up the union-negotiated option of retaining their pre-HRA hours with a commensurate reduction in pay.
Prior to the implementation of the independent body’s report, and considering the various flexible working arrangements in place in public service bodies, Fórsa will seek formal clarification that such arrangements can continue for staff who currently work fewer than 35 hours a week, and who want to continue to do so.
On implementation of the Independent Body’s report, the commensurate reduction in pay for staff with these arrangements should decrease to reflect the fact that pre-HRA hours for affected staff have been restored. In other words, staff working fewer than 35 hours a week should have a smaller pay reduction than at present.
What happens next?
On 14th April 2022, the Government announced that it had accepted the full report of the Independent Body, which includes the implementation date of 1st July 2022. Its statement said that the health minister would engage with health sector unions “on the measures that are required to ensure safe implementation of the recommendations.”
Is that the end of it?
Yes. The Independent Body said no compensatory claims should be pursued or conceded, in respect of any grade, arising from the implementation of its recommendations. “These recommendations effectively conclude any further negotiations to restore pay and other conditions of employment, either imposed by a combination of FEMPI legislative enactments, or agreed through a difficult series of overarching public sector agreements addressing pay, pensions, working hours and public service modernisation requirements over the last decade,” it said.
Ask a question
You can submit any questions on the outcome of the HRA hours process HERE.