• CQC to increase one-off payments for homeworkers for stopping broadband privileges
  • Regulator to give £350 to its 2,000 staff on homeworking contracts
  • Agreement with unions comes after confidence in CQC’s senior leadership fell

The Care Quality Commission has agreed to spend an estimated additional £240,000 on “goodwill” payments to its homeworkers after reaching agreement with unions on plans to cut their broadband provision.

The CQC has agreed with five unions to up the one-off payments to all its homeworkers to £350, from the £230 it had originally offered, to end a dispute over plans by the regulator to stop paying for broadband lines at their properties.

Based on the assumption this applies to all its approximately 2,000 homeworkers, the increased payments will amount to an extra cost of £240,000.

HSJ revealed this month that the CQC’s chief executive Ian Trenholm and its senior leadership faced a vote of no confidence from the unions over the issue, which came amid falling staff confidence in the executive team.

The 2,000 CQC staff who are on homeworking contracts include many of its inspectors. The unions previously accused the CQC’s senior leadership of “ignoring” the concerns of its members and “stubbornly pressing ahead with a damaging and unpopular plan with little staff consultation” — which Mr Trenholm denied.

A joint statement from the CQC and the trade unions — Unison, the Royal College of Nursing, the Public and Commercial Services Union, Unite and Prospect — said both sides had now agreed to the change in home broadband policy after the one-off payments were increased.

The statement, from the CQC’s director of people, Gill Nicholson, and the unions, said: “In our last update [on the changes] it was confirmed that the consultation with the trade unions had concluded and the change in broadband provision will be implemented from 1 April 2020.

“Since then, further discussions have been held with joint trade union colleagues resulting in an increase to the one-off payment to a total of £350, from the £230 originally offered. Both sides, CQC and the joint trade unions, have agreed this payment.”

A CQC spokeswoman added: “The money [for the payments] has been ring-fenced from the 2019-20 budget as part of our financial planning. Going forward from April 2020, the removal of the CQC broadband line will save approximately £1m each year.” The CQC’s annual budget is about £235m.

Neither the unions nor the CQC have revealed the outcome of the no-confidence vote, which closed on 7 February, despite repeated requests by HSJ.

Unison national officer Matt Egan, speaking on behalf of the five unions, said: “Following negotiations with senior managers, staff will receive a one-off payment £120 more than was originally offered by the CQC, to compensate them for the loss of home broadband.”

The CQC’s latest staff survey showed confidence in its executive team to “provide clear direction and leadership” fell by 10 percentage points in a year to just 34 per cent; there was a drop of the same size in the percentage of staff saying the values of Mr Trenholm and his leadership team “are consistent with the values of the CQC”, to 42 per cent.

At a CQC board meeting on 26 February, Mr Trenholm said: “I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed in the results.” He also said the broadband withdrawal “has been a difficult issue”. The meeting was told directorates and teams would discuss the survey results, and that action plans will be developed to raise morale.