Working time, holidays, time off: "The company agreement gives us a clearer vision"
What are the main improvements brought by the company agreement signed in 2017?"
The first improvement is visibility, which we had lost amid the heap of agreements and practices built up over time. With its simplified framework, the company agreement gives us a clearer vision and a base to build upon. It standardises how much holiday staff have and how holidays are taken, important issues in any big firm. The analysis we carried out before the negotiations revealed a significant amount of holiday days left over. The new system enables us to absorb this and change the mindset whereby staff accumulate holiday. This streamlining drive, along with a standardised holiday allowance of 37 days for all staff, will be helped by the installation of our new time management system (GTA).
What exactly is this GTA?
It helps us implement the deals made on working time in the company agreement. More concretely, the GTA will give all staff in the Agency a time planning tool. An editorial or technical manager will know exactly which staff he or she has available for shifts or to be on call. At the same time, the staff member knows exactly how many holidays he or she has left. This is a new step forward because at the moment, these details are buried at the bottom of the payslip. It also helps our structures: no one will have to ask about their holiday allowances, they can connect and look at their account. With these types of tool and stricter rules, we will manage holidays better and also better guarantee the right to time off.
By guaranteeing this right to time off, is AFP changing its policy on time off in lieu?
Guaranteeing time off was one of the guiding principles of the company agreement. It is true for holidays, our system of annual working days and compensating for overtime and on-call time. We no longer systematically pay out staff who work overtime or who are sent to cover an event. From now on, we ask them to take time-off in lieu. What is important is that we do not pay them extra but that they take time off.
The key measure is the annual working days system. What is the initial assessment?
Amongst the measures related to working time, there is of course the implementation of an annual working days system instead of an hourly breakdown. Seventy-five percent of journalists have opted for this system of working 202 days (or 214 days abroad with 12 days holiday per year at the end of the posting). As we expected, not many people on the desks chose this system. Their job has fixed hours so this is a legitimate choice. On the other hand, all expatriates opted for this system. This is natural because journalists see themselves as carrying out a mission, rather than counting their hours. The same applies for managers from a certain level of seniority. Those who are genuinely autonomous chose the annual working days system, which is consistent with the nature of their work.
What is the latest on teleworking, which the agreement aims to facilitate?
This has already been a great success because more than 100 employees are working from home one day per week. It is fairly rare among journalists, as their work does not lend itself easily to this type of organisation. However, distance working is becoming commonplace at the Technical Department and even the Sales and Marketing Department. There will be some further changes and explanations so that everyone knows what distance working involves. It can be a motivating factor for some staff. It is also a sign of trust. It is not uncommon that people work better from home than they do at their usual workplace. There is less interference so one can be more efficient.
Another new element is the right to disconnect. Is this feeding through the services?
Every member of staff has this right, including those on the annual working days system. After the working day, if a member of staff is not on call, he or she is not obliged to read or respond to emails and calls. This was introduced at AFP three years ago following the creation of a committee on psychosocial risks. The principle of a right to disconnect is written into new working contracts. Automatic out-of-office emails are generated when staff are absent and these often state that the mail will be directed to other people. Journalists on holiday can be removed from internal email lists. We have made some progress with this but there is still some way to go. The logical next step would be for staff to disconnect as soon as he or she leaves the office or between certain time periods.
What other projects are coming up in 2018?
Some topics are only briefly touched upon in the agreement. I'm thinking of some HR topics, especially skills management. We are going to relaunch our campaign for people to have professional interviews. Journalists are in a working cycle that means this happens automatically. If they are appointed for three years, the interview happens at the end of this period. Technical and administrative staff can have their interview between February and April. The next step is to have a staff review process, to examine skills, training needs and future prospects. For this, we will need to rethink the Agency's skills map.