RTPI staff offered reduced hours on full pay to protect mental health

Staff at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) have been given the option of reducing their working hours by 30% with no financial penalty during the coronavirus lockdown.

Victoria Hills

In an email to staff on Wednesday 25 March, RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills said she was introducing the measures to safeguard the mental health of all staff in ‘these exceptional times’.

The situation will be reviewed after the Easter break.

Ms Hills said: “Many of our staff have caring responsibilities or may be volunteering to help others during the government lockdown period and we want to support them as much as we can.

“Given the extraordinary demands many of us find ourselves in during the government lockdown period, some of our valued colleagues are finding the working conditions at home quite challenging. It is vital that we can collectively emerge from this period fit and well both emotionally and physically, which is why we have decided to allow staff to reduce their working hours by up to 30% without changing their terms and conditions of employment in any way.

“Looking after the wellbeing of my team during these challenging times is a key priority and by doing so we will ensure that they remain fit and well to serve our members”

Ms Hills added that work to support members would continue uninterrupted throughout the lockdown. The APC, Planning Awards for Excellence, Planning Aid England and CPD are just some of the many services the RTPI is providing virtually during the lockdown period.

The actions of the RTPI are in marked contrast to measures imposed by many other companies, some of whom are asking their employees to take unpaid leave or go into work regardless. Many self-employed workers have lost their jobs completely.

One member of staff at the RTPI said: “I cannot thank the chief executive and the governing board enough for looking after us in this way. I feel supported and valued in what is an extremely stressful situation.

“My husband and I are both trying to work from home while caring for our children, who are struggling to fully comprehend the situation. By giving us flexibility in our working hours the RTPI has truly understood how difficult this is.”

The RTPI moved to a virtual operation overnight in response to the government’s call for greater social distancing. The institute’s offices in Cardiff, Edinburgh and London have all been closed.

All events and travel have been suspended until 31 August 2020.

Ms Hills said work to support members would continue uninterrupted throughout the lockdown. It was announced earlier this week that the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence would still go ahead. Winners will be revealed at 1300BST during a Premier hosted on the RTPI’s YouTube channel.

Yesterday, Ms Hills penned a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, calling on the government to expedite plans to support self-employed workers in the UK.

And the RTPI has joined forces with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Royal Institute of British Architects to offer its help to the government in this time of national emergency.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the three organisations said that their members have access to a wide range of buildings that could be used by the NHS or other key workers and are keen to meet with senior officials to discuss how they could make a difference.

But the organisations also sought government support for the UK’s construction and infrastructure sectors, saying the long-overdue legislation currently going through Parliament – such as the Fire Safety Bill and the Building Safety Bill – must not be impaired.

Built environment professionals are also very concerned about the rapid cancellation of early stage projects which are at inception or early design stage, and site inspections, the organisations say.

The letter asks the government to introduce a range of measures to provide support and assistance for built environment practices during the pandemic, including a temporary relaxation of time limits for planning applications and greater flexibility around the operation and submission of evidence to planning committees.

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Tags: RTPI, COVID-19

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