Better work conditions for DES Family Assistance Employees

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Program Service Evaluators with the Family Assistance Administration are the most important workers within the agency. Clients coming in to apply for nutrition, cash, and medical assistance would not receive they need if these workers were not there. PSEs are the front lines of the agency; however, the agency continues to add more policies and requirements that add more stress while deciding that they won't issue a bonus or pay raise to these employees. 

Hourly, the pay rate seems decent. But after mandatory deductions such as retirement and taxes, take home pay is very little. Many of these workers have even realized that their clients who make less per hour have a net income that is higher. Retirement alone takes approximately $150 per pay check (almost $4,000 annually) and although there is a benefit later in life, tell that to someone who stands in line at the grocery store not even making it to next pay day without having to use their credit card to buy food. 

Although the state is transitioning to standard work in an attempt to make all offices uniform in how they function, different offices have policies that create a hostile work environment. 

Andon Conditioning: 

When wait times in the lobby reach a certain time, offices have a plan in place to bring these times down and below this time. Some offices have implemented a policy where workers cannot go on break or lunch until the wait times are reduced, causing them to go to lunch at 3-4PM. Other offices eliminate afternoon breaks which are crucial to workers in a stressful position such as being a PSE. 

Solution: Employee attrition contributes largely to the wait times in the lobby. When a staff member quits, it means that 8-10 clients won't be seen by this person per day and it takes months to hire someone and for them to complete training so they can see clients. A lot of workers leave because they cannot handle the increasing requirements and policies being implemented with only the clients in mind. Instead of focusing on putting more pressure on workers to reduce lobby wait time, focus on the factors contributing to employee attrition to keep more people in the position. 

Attendance Policy

Over time, many of us have seen the attendance policy change to only allow 2-3 people off on a given day. Then we faced another change of having a "bank of hours" for each office and being told that FMLA and call outs reduces the number of hours available for planned leave and that once these hours were reduced to zero that no planned leave could be approved. These policies were implemented to support the "True North" statement but it appears that no consideration for workers was ever made. Stress and burnout are rampant in this agency and being told that you can't be approved for any time off the rest of a month only negatively affects the office morale and well-being of the workers. These effects can contribute to productivity issues due to affecting focus and cognitive awareness, not to mention stress related health issues causing unplanned absences. 

Solution: Allow workers to use accrued sick and annual leave within reason of the number of workers already approved and eliminate the "bank of hours" contributing to burnout and increased stress. 

Pay raises and bonuses

Other departments within the State of Arizona have received pay raises. PSEs continue to see more requirements being added, even having to do work for APS with their discount applications, yet are stiffed when it comes to receiving any kind of incentive pay, bonuses, and raises to keep up with the cost of living. The State of Arizona recently announced an increase to retirement deductions and also the deductible for medical care for 2020. The retirement increased effective immediately as a surprise to workers the day before pay day. Regularly we authorize benefits for Arizona families while we struggle to fill our own cabinets with food, yet due to our gross income we do not qualify for any of the assistance we provide. We should see a pay raise/bonus to help us keep up with the increased cost of living and provide a motivating factor to come to work each day working under the demands that we have. 

If Arizona doesn't resolve the issues surrounding the work environment for these workers, employee turnover will continue to be an issue surrounding the agency and will continue to impact Arizona families trying to get assistance.