The relationship between staff, MPs and the House of Commons is a complicated one and it is important to know what you are entitled to and what rights you have as an employee. Representatives of the Union are always here to help if you have specific issues that are troubling you and we have many well-trained shop stewards who can represent you if need be. This section will deal briefly with your basic rights.
- Contracts etc
- Occupational health and other entitlements
- Security arrangements in constituency offices
- A word on interns
- Staff groups you can join
Recommended payscales are provided by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and, as a Union, we wouldn’t want to see anyone who is fulfilling a role getting paid at less than these. We’d recommend that you keep a check list of responsibilities that you are asked to take on and what your job entails; then, after a reasonable period of being in the job, say 3-6 months, review it and compare with the job description for the payscale you’ve been put on. If you feel you are not receiving the correct salary, ask your MP to review it.
The latest payscales are available on the IPSA website: http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/Job%20Description/Documents/MP%20staff%20JDs%20spreadsheet%2015%20-%2016.pdf
The staffing budget, from which your wages are drawn, is increased annually in line with inflation; however, this is not automatically passed on to you. Wages both in the public and private sector rise alongside inflation so it is right that your MP should instruct IPSA to raise your salary by amending your contract (your contract says that they will review it annually). At the beginning of the financial year, on 1 April, raise this with your MP and ask him/her to instruct IPSA to ask that the increase be passed on.
In the event of a General Election, IPSA will continue to pay MPs’ staff salaries during the election period. If the Member is re-elected, there will be no interruption to salary payments. However, should the MP not be re-elected, IPSA will contact you to let you know what will happen next.
A contract is a requirement for all staff and IPSA will not pay your salary until they have received your contract. You pursue this with your MP if s/he hasn’t provided it within a fortnight of your start date. In order to process the salary payments, IPSA must have the relevant information by the 15th of each month.
IPSA’s page on employing staff (http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/IPSAMPs/Pages/HR,-Payroll,-Interns.aspx) gives links to useful information on contracts, holiday entitlement, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave and payroll.
Under the existing arrangements, as soon as you are set up with a contract and getting paid from IPSA, you will automatically be enrolled in the MPs staff pension plan. You can find further information on the pension plan here: https://www.legalandgeneral.com/workplacebenefits/microsites/ipsa/
There are a number of groups and organisations that you can join and get involved in that represent staff interests. The largest of these is the Unite (Parliamentary Staff) Branch, with just under 500 members. You can find further information here: http://www.w4mp.org/library/guides/researchguides/your-employment-status/union-membership-for-mps-staff/
The Members and Peers Staff Association (MAPSA) (http://www.w4mp.org/library/guides/2010-guide-to-working-for-an-mp-for-new-staff/groups-which-staff-can-join/representation/the-members-and-peers-staff-association/) is a cross-party organisation run by and for Members’ staff.
Any staff who are on IPSA’s payroll and who use a computer for their work are entitled to a free eye test paid for by their employer. If they did not need glasses before, and the eye test confirms that they now need them for work involving the computer, they can submit this receipt and it will be paid for out of the MPs’ Office Cost Allowance. This is a legal right, and the fact that the MPs are reluctant to pay for it is because at present it comes out of their expenses.
Information relating to sick leave can be found on IPSA’s website here.
From time to time very difficult – and occasionally threatening – people may visit your office and/or surgeries. Where the local police advise, the House will contribute to the costs of security measures taken to safeguard Members, their staff and their equipment at their constituency office or surgery; see http://intranet.parliament.uk/finances/allowances/security. You should also look at the security section in IPSA’s Guidance for MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses.
If you are in Westminster, pop into the Members’ Centre in Portcullis House and see the Occupational Health person there. Although they are not obliged to advise you as a staffer, they are incredibly helpful and will certainly do their best to point you in the right direction.
The Commons Learning and Development Team organises a wide range of excellent, free training courses on skills such as effective writing, dealing with the media and interview skills, as well as very specific courses, for example immigration law and welfare benefits. Further details can be found on the ACT website, which you can access via the ACT shortcut on the desktop of your Parliament-supplied computer. You can only access this website if you have a Parliamentary network account, and the courses are only available to staff who are on the IPSA payroll.
It’s in both your own and your employer’s best interest for you to be as fully trained as possible so make sure you keep an eye out for ongoing training opportunities put on by the Commons Learning and Development Team or your Parliamentary Party.
We’d also recommend that you book a Library tour as early as possible into your employment as this is an invaluable tool for researchers; they can be contacted on 3666.
IPSA recognises the importance of learning and development. It is committed to offering MPs and MPs Staff a variety of training opportunities in addition to face to face training.
There is a training page on IPSA’s website, where you will find links to e-learning videos, links to HR and Payroll training information plus links to their comprehensive ‘how to’ guides.
You will also find their training calendar where you can view forthcoming events, which take place all around the country. If there is something that you would like to attend please complete the on-line booking form. If you have a learning need that is not covered here please get in touch with IPSA and they will do their best to help.
The Unite Branch has a number of members who are currently interning in Parliament. The work that they do for MPs is invaluable and many offices could not survive without the help they get from interns. The Branch has been campaigning to make interns aware of their rights and secure a minimum wage. If an employer asks a member of staff to work set hours and to perform tasks that they rely on, the law states that they must pay the minimum wage. We recognise the place that internships have in allowing people to gain experience but we do not want to see anyone get exploited and also feel that there are inherent issues of accessibility to employment around this. On the other hand, we wouldn’t recommend taking an internship and then marching in on your first day and demanding a wage, as most MPs use the majority of their limited staffing budget.
If you feel you are being asked to do work outside your position of an intern, please do get in touch with a staff representation body, such as the Unite Branch and/or the Department of Resources’ Personnel Advice Service (PAS) for advice. Although the PAS will deal with enquiries about employment issues, all payroll enquiries should be directed to the payroll team at IPSA – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a look at the page on W4MP which links you to a whole range of Party, social and sporting groups which you can join: http://www.w4mp.org/library/guides/2010-guide-to-working-for-an-mp-for-new-staff/groups-which-staff-can-join/. Some of these groups come and go pretty quickly so we can’t always guarantee the list is up to date but it’s worth checking them out.
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