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Equalities Commission Mental Health Charter

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Dear Department for Communities (Northern Ireland),

Noting that the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) is not in itself an employer but an umbrella term used to describe public sector workers I note that it has some time ago, 23 January 2018, “signed up” to the Equality Commission’s Mental Health Charter https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/news/nics-...

Can you confirm if the Department for Communities as an actual employing department has signed up to the Equality Commission’s Mental Health Charter and, if so on what date?

Please also confirm the number of your direct employees who have been absent from work as a result of mental illness who have received a warning since 23 January 2018.

Yours faithfully,

Kieran Flynn

DfC FOI, Department for Communities (Northern Ireland)

Thank you for contacting the Department for Communities Freedom of
Information Team. 

 

Your correspondence has been received and will be passed to the
appropriate Departmental business area for action. 

 

Damian O'Hara| Information Management Branch | Department for Communities

Level 5 | Nine Lanyon Place | BELFAST | BT1 3LP

Contact: * damian.o'[email address] | ( Tel: (028) 9082 9137 |
( DD: 38137

 

Supporting people, Building communities, Shaping places

 

DfC FOI, Department for Communities (Northern Ireland)

Mr Flynn,

 

Thank you for contacting the Department.

 

I am liaising with my colleagues to establish the business area best
placed to respond to your request.

 

Regards

 

Damian O'Hara| Information Management Branch | Department for Communities

Level 5 | Nine Lanyon Place | BELFAST | BT1 3LP

Contact: * damian.o'[email address] | ( Tel: (028) 9082 9137 |
( DD: 38137

 

Supporting people, Building communities, Shaping places

 

 

 

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Damian.

Thank you for the update.

Sincerely,

Kieran

DfC FOI, Department for Communities (Northern Ireland)

Mr Flynn

 

I have consulted with colleagues within this Department and within the
Department of Finance (DOF) in relation to your request below.

 

I can advise that the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) is a direct
employer rather than an umbrella term to describe public sector workers. 
All permanent staff members within each of the Northern Ireland Government
Departments are employed directly by the NICS rather than each Department.

 

For a number of years the NICS has used a centralised Human Resource
service, HR Connect, which is managed by DOF.  As such all questions
relating to staffing matters, including staff absences, should be directed
to it in the first instance.  If you wish to do so you can submit a
request to the [1][email address] mailbox.

 

I can further advise that the Department for Communities has not signed up
to the Equality Commission’s Mental Health Charter as an individual
Department.  When signing up to the Charter the Head of the Civil Service
did so on behalf of the entire NICS.

 

Sorry I cannot be of more assistance on this occasion.

 

Regards

 

Damian O'Hara| Information Management Branch | Department for Communities

Level 5 | Nine Lanyon Place | BELFAST | BT1 3LP

Contact: * damian.o'[email address] | ( Tel: (028) 9082 9137 |
( DD: 38137

 

Supporting people, Building communities, Shaping places

 

 

 

 

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Damien,

Thank you for your reply.

In relation to your statement " I can advise that the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) is a direct employer rather than an umbrella term to describe public sector workers. All permanent staff members within each of the Northern Ireland Government Departments are employed directly by the NICS rather than each Department" can you explain why the NICS has never, to the best of my knowledge, been cited as a respondent (employer) in an employment tribunal in Northern Ireland?

It is my understanding that in circumstances where plaintiffs have cited the NICS as the employer / respondent in tribunal cases they are advised that the NICS is not an employer / their employer and that the employing department should be the respondent.

Can I therefore ask how you satisfied yourself as to the veracity of the assertion that you have made?

Can you provide a link to or a copy of any official or legal documentation clarifying that the NICS is the employer of all permanent staff members within each of the Northern Ireland Government Departments?

Yours sincerely,

Kieran

DfC FOI, Department for Communities (Northern Ireland)

Mr Flynn,

 

I can advise that my comment on the status of NICS as an employer was
based on consultation with colleagues in the Department of Finance (DOF)
which has primary responsibility for HR/Personnel matters.  As noted in my
response the NICS now has a centralised HR service which delivers that
function on behalf of all NICS Departments.  This service is managed by
DOF which would therefore be best placed to provide a definitive answer to
your query about the employment status of staff within each Department.

 

The operation of employment tribunals is outside the remit of this
Department but a search of decisions on the website for the Industrial
Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal (OITFET) website ([1]Online
Decision Search Results (employmenttribunalsni.co.uk) does produce a
number of results where the Respondent is identified as the Northern
Ireland Civil Service both individually and in conjunction with other
parties.

 

I have attached a link below to the ‘Working in the NICS’ section of the
DOF website which provides information on this subject:

 

[2]https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/topics/wor...

 

As noted in my response queries related to HR matters would be best
directed to DOF which has lead responsibility in this area through its
management of the centralised HR service.  To assist you I have provided a
link to the contact page of the DOF website.

 

[3]https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/contact

 

I hope that this has clarified my previous response and that you find it
useful.

 

Regards

 

Damian O'Hara| Information Management Branch | Department for Communities

Level 5 | Nine Lanyon Place | BELFAST | BT1 3LP

Contact: * damian.o'[email address] | ( Tel: (028) 9082 9137 |
( DD: 38137

 

Supporting people, Building communities, Shaping places

 

 

 

 

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Damien.

Thank you for your reply.

I have studied the 20 decisions on the OITFET site and whilst they are referenced in cases as as respondent not one of them references the NICS as an employer. Every instance where an employer is represented involves a civil service department named as a joint respondent and not the NICS alone. Indeed the Goss case (CASE REF:610/06) which cited the only respondent as the Northern Ireland Civil Service sought to "(ii) To determine the correct title of the respondent." but failed to do so.

Conversely the case of McCann (CASE REF:111/07) where the respondents include the Northern Ireland Office,
Department of Finance & Personnel and the Northern Ireland Civil Service states unequivocally in relation to the claimant "The claimant is a solicitor in the Compensation Agency. It is accepted that his employer is the Department of Finance & Personnel (DFP) albeit that he is seconded to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). " so clearly the assertion that the NICS is a legal entity or that "All permanent staff members within each of the Northern Ireland Government Departments are employed directly by the NICS rather than each Department" is, at best, questionable.

Can I ask again that you provide a link to or a copy of any legal instrument you or those you have consulted with might have that corroborates the assertion that the NICS is an employer as defined in law as opposed to by virtue of title and the direct employer of all permanent staff within each of the Northern Ireland Government Departments?

Following your advice I have clarified my request made to DoF in relation to staff sick leave and warnings issued to those with mental health issues.

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Kieran

DfC FOI, Department for Communities (Northern Ireland)

Mr Flynn,

 

I don’t believe that I can provide any further advice in relation to your
queries as the issues you have raised are outside the remit of this
Department.

 

As noted previously responsibility for Human Resource matters within the
NICS lies primarily with the Department of Finance (DOF) and I would
advise you to direct your specific queries to it.  It will be able to
clarify the exact relationship between the NICS and the Departments from a
staffing perspective.  If it establishes that the information I have
provided to you is incorrect then I apologise for any inconvenience.

 

You have asked about any legal instrument which relates.  I have attached
a link to the NICS Handbook on the DOF website which is issued under the
authority of the Civil Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.

 

[1]https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/articles/n...

 

The Order is cited in full in Annex 6 to the [2]NICS Policy and Procedures
Manual Version 16  states that it gives DOF responsibility:

 

‘…..for the general management and control of the Civil Service, and
empowers the Department to make regulations or give directions relating to
the employment and conditions of service of persons in the Civil Service,
including regulations or directions prescribing the requirements for
appointment to situations in the Civil Service and the making of a Code of
ethics.’

 

As noted above this would appear to indicate that DOF are best placed to
provide you with the information you require.

 

Happy to discuss if you wish.

 

Regards

 

Damian O'Hara| Information Management Branch | Department for Communities

Level 5 | Nine Lanyon Place | BELFAST | BT1 3LP

Contact: * damian.o'[email address] | ( Tel: (028) 9082 9137 |
( DD: 38137

 

Supporting people, Building communities, Shaping places

 

 

 

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Damian,

Thanks once again for your reply.

Try as I might I am unable to locate a copy of the Civil Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 which you reference.

Would you be in a position to supply a link to same?

Yours sincerely

Kieran

DfC FOI, Department for Communities (Northern Ireland)

Mr Flynn,

 

The issues addressed below are outside the remit of this Department. 

 

The documentation and internet link I previously provided to you are the
responsibility of the Department of Finance and I would suggest that you
contact it directly as it should be able to address your query below.

 

Regards

 

Damian O'Hara| Information Management Branch | Department for Communities

Level 5 | Nine Lanyon Place | BELFAST | BT1 3LP

Contact: * damian.o'[email address] | ( Tel: (028) 9082 9137 |
( DD: 38137

 

Supporting people, Building communities, Shaping places

 

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

Damien,

Can you please confirm if, as you assert, you are an employee of the NICS what, exactly, prevents you as a public servant providing me with a link to information which I have requested which you have specifically referenced and relied upon in relation to my original FoI request ?

Secondly. I do not believe that the "responsibility" for the referenced legislation lies specifically with the DoF. It is my understanding that all such legislation is available to the public and published on the internet by the Government ( www.,legislation.gov.uk ). If you have evidence to the contrary I would welcome sight of same.

Yours sincerely,

Kieran Flynn

DfC FOI, Department for Communities (Northern Ireland)

1 Attachment

Mr Flynn,

 

I have addressed each of your queries below.

 

Can you please confirm if, as you assert, you are an employee of the NICS
what, exactly, prevents you as a public servant providing me with a link
to information which I have requested which you have specifically
referenced and relied upon in relation to my original FoI request ?

 

I have previously provided you with a link to :

·       the Department of Finance (DOF) website which details its
responsibilities under the Civil Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1999;
and

·       the NICS Recruitment Manual which contains the full text of the
Order in Annex 6 (I have attached the manual for convenience to this
e-mail)

 

If provision of the Order in this manner does not satisfy your requirement
then you should contact DOF which may be able to advise where you can get
a copy to meet your specific needs.

 

Secondly. I do not believe that the "responsibility" for the referenced
legislation lies specifically with the DoF. It is my understanding that
all such legislation is available to the public and published on the
internet by the Government ( [1]www.,legislation.gov.uk ). If you have
evidence to the contrary I would welcome sight of same.

 

The Civil Service (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 specifically refers to
responsibilities placed on DOF in regard to appointment etc to the
Northern Ireland Civil Service.  As such responsibility for those
functions, and with the information you have requested, lie with it.

 

I have provided all the information I can in relation to your request for
information and as noted previously would suggest you contact DOF
directly.

 

I can advise that my remit extends only to the functions of the Department
for Communities which are outlined in full on the Department’s website
([2]www.communities-ni.gov.uk) in the section entitled ‘Our
Responsibilities’ and though your queries lie outside this I have
attempted to provide all the assistance I can.  I have provided you with
links to information published by DOF which appear to answer your queries
but only it can provide the specific information you require as HR matters
lies within its area of responsibility.

 

If you are unhappy about the way in which I have responded to your
original request or subsequent queries you can make a complaint which will
be addressed by my branch line management.  I have attached a link to the
complaints page on the Department for Communities website for your
convenience:

 

[3]https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/dfc-co...

 

Regards

 

Damian O'Hara| Information Management Branch | Department for Communities

Level 5 | Nine Lanyon Place | BELFAST | BT1 3LP

Contact: * damian.o'[email address] | ( Tel: (028) 9082 9137 |
( DD: 38137

 

Supporting people, Building communities, Shaping places

 

 

 

show quoted sections

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Kieran Flynn please sign in and let everyone know.