Major change at Santander with new deal on post-Covid ways of working


Thursday 25th March 2021

A groundbreaking agreement has been struck between the CWU and Santander on an innovative and progressive new approach to the post-Covid world of work.

Thrashed out against the backdrop of far-reaching company proposals that undoubtedly represent the biggest transformation in the UK Bank’s history, the CWU-brokered deal preserves jobs and avoids compulsory redundancies that would otherwise have been inevitable as Santander announces an unprecedented rationalisation of its property estate.

Crucially the agreement gives employees genuine choice over their futures as the Bank embarks on a historic move to a predominantly homeworking operating model for those affected by the changes announced to its property estate today (Thursday).

New ‘dual location’ contracts will be introduced to allow the majority of employees in closing and consolidating sites to work mainly from home, but with regular attendances at a nearby ‘collaboration hub’.  Meanwhile, the interests of those who simply cannot work from home have also been protected with agreement of a process to ensure that office space is prioritised for those with exceptional circumstances.

News of the changes, that Santander wants completed by the year’s end, was broken to staff this morning. Under the complete rethink of pre-pandemic working arrangements, no fewer than four of the Bank’s major head office buildings will be closing in their entirety. These include the massive former Girobank headquarters in Bootle, where 2,161 employees are impacted, and the smaller CWU-represented site at Manchester Deansgate, where 379 employees were based pre-lockdown. Santander’s Newcastle office and Portman House in London are also closing.

Meanwhile the second largest site at which the CWU is recognised for collective bargaining purposes – the former Alliance & Leicester headquarters campus at Carlton Park in Leicester – will consolidate into just one building, with the majority of the 1,258 staff at that location shifting from Covid-enforced homeworking to the new dual location working arrangements.

Santander’s new purpose-built site in Milton Keynes, (“Unity Place”) will become the Bank’s Headquarters when it opens in the early part of 2023. In the interim, London employees – including the CWU-represented ex- Geoban staff conducting IT roles at Triton Square – will be asked to work more flexibly and there will be enough space for those that wish or need to work in London offices.  Portman House in London will close at the end of September 2021 with affected colleagues able to work flexibly in the remaining London space due to the consolidations of the Triton Square and Ludgate Hill offices.  In early 2022 it is anticipated that London-based employees will understand more about how dual location working arrangements will operate and other options available to them.   

Sally Bridge

CWU national officer for Santander, Sally Bridge, said: “We understand that many of our members will be overwhelmed by today’s announcement due to the scale, complexity and detail of the changes that lie ahead.

“We also understand that members in Bootle will be shocked and disappointed that their site is closing considering the planned investment for a major new development that was paused last year – and the CWU shares their sadness.

“I hope, however, that members will understand that the union’s main aim and priority throughout the extraordinarily intense and complex negotiations we’ve been having has been to protect jobs and terms & conditions.

“The firm view of the union’s Santander national team is that we’ve not just secured that objective, but in the process have negotiated a series of choices, safeguards and compensatory allowances for eligible employees which collectively add up to a groundbreaking package that sets an entirely new benchmark of worker protections as we enter a ‘new normal’ that is likely to see similar developments taking place across the wider economy.”

Template for the future…

Details of the comprehensive safeguards that have been secured for members in the Bank are contained in Santander Members’ Bulletin 63/2021. In summary, however, the provisions negotiated by the CWU for this programme of changes include:

  • The rollout of a new  ‘dual location’ contract that will allow the majority of those who are currently based at either closing or consolidating sites to work from home while still regularly collaborating with colleagues at nearby ‘hubs’
  • Where sites are closing, smaller properties will be leased in those localities, to be known as ‘collaboration hubs’, to enable employees to meet for face-to-face activities including individual and team meetings and training
  • Collaboration space being made available to employees in sites that are consolidating
  • Space also being made available for employees with exceptional circumstances
  • A financial incentive supporting  ‘dual location’ arrangements including  a one-time gross £500 cash lump sum (not pro-rated for part-time employees) for S1/G1 and S2/G2 (and equivalent grades in Santander Technology) in advance of the  first year of formalised dual location working to enable individuals (including part-timers) to set up a suitable home environment – though all IT equipment and a chair  will be provided by the Bank
  • After the first year, a gross £500-a-year allowance (pro-rated for part-timer employees) for S1/G1 and S2/G2 (and equivalent grades in Santander Technology) being  paid to ‘dual location’ contract holders on an ongoing monthly basis after the first anniversary of their switch.
  • The introduction of a new  ‘Dual Location Charter’ providing clear boundaries and support for working at home that will sit alongside the Bank’s existing industry-leading wellbeing programme. [lifted from below]

Following today’s announcement, the next step for all 7,000 employees  in scope will be a one-to-one meeting with their manager to explain the changes and the options available to them, which for the majority will be the offer of a dual location contract.  Those that perform a role that can only be undertaken on site will continue to do this.  It is recognised that dual location working arrangements will not suit everyone who is offered them, and for these employees a redundancy option will be available.  Employees who are identified as ‘critical’ or site-based in consolidating sites will not be eligible for redundancy.

Assistant secretary Sally Bridge concludes: “Of course we accept that not everyone will welcome the momentous changes that are in the pipeline. It has to be said, however, that recent membership surveys have indicated a desire from a large majority of those currently working from home for flexibility to continue after the pandemic, and this agreement achieves that.

“Ultimately, faced with the proposals of site closures and consolidations, the deal we’ve negotiated has avoided compulsory redundancies by giving individuals genuine options – crucially protecting our most vulnerable members for whom dual location arrangements were not suitable  on account of their exceptional circumstances.

“Santander deserves credit for recognising its responsibilities to such employees, and I hope that other employers follow the moral lead the Bank has taken in what is likely to be one of the first of many far-reaching corporate readjustments the post-Covid world of work.”

A special Facebook Live event will take place tonight at 6pm tonight where further details of today’s momentous announcement will be shared. Join the discussion at the CWU Facebook page