• Branches and members will be aware that HMRC and other Government Departments are required to review terms and conditions of employment as part of the Civil Service Reform Plan. Attached to this circular is a copy of the employer’s ‘offer’ letter.
• These imposed changes are perverse in the extreme and will penalise thousands of staff seeking promotion. In fact, the impact of this imposition is likely to create a massive disincentive for staff to seek promotion.
• HMRC has consciously decided to impose the most extreme set of arrangements across Government.
• Proposals are the thin end of a wedge designed to undermine all terms and conditions of employment.
Attached with the employer’s offer are copies of the proposed contracts which will be imposed on existing staff at the point of promotion (with some exceptions which are detailed in the letter) and also imposed contracts for new starters.
We understand that a message to staff on these proposals from Lin Homer was be sent out Thursday afternoon.
The imposed changes will mean that all staff are now blocked from promotion unless they sign away their existing terms and conditions. Detrimental contracts will also be introduced for future new starters.
• Privilege Leave – this will be scrapped for new starters and capped for existing staff if they accept an offer of promotion.
• Banked Leave – this is being scrapped for new starters and is being suspended for ALL STAFF for 12 months initially across HMRC.
• Mobility – the department is seeking to scrap non-mobility clauses for all staff. At present, this will only apply to new starters.
• Working Hours (in London) – new and promoted staff will be required to work 42 hours per week.
• Sickness Absence – new starters will attract one month full pay and one month half pay in the first year of service, rising with each year of service to a maximum of 5 months’ full pay, followed by 5 months’ half pay (and then pension pay, where appropriate criteria are met), with no more than 10 months’ sick pay over 4 years. HMRC are also proposing to introduce this change for staff promoted on or after 1 May 2013, taking account of their length of service. For example, someone promoted after 2 years’ service will revert to a maximum of 2 months’ full pay and 2 months’ half pay entitlement.
The detailed proposals are set out in the attached letter. Feedback from branches is strongly encouraged so that we can answer concerns and queries that members will have. Please send this to R&CCampaigns@pcs.org.uk
The effect of detrimental contracts for new starters in HMRC will create two tier arrangements across the department. Over time, it is likely that the employer will attempt to designate these inferior contracts as the ‘standard’ and the terms used to seek to undermine existing contracts of employment.
By way of example, paragraph 4.2 of the proposed contracts for new starters states:
You may, with appropriate notice, be required to work more than the hours set out in 4.1 above if your job demands it and as HMRC may reasonably require of you. If it is appropriate, this may include a requirement to work overtime, shifts or variable and unsocial hours including weekends and public and privilege holidays. Your hours of attendance or working pattern may be changed from time to time. In all cases, you will be given reasonable notice and your personal circumstances will be taken into account.
Whilst these proposals apply to new starters only, it sends a clear signal about what the future may hold and the sort of “fully flexible” workforce that the employer envisages.
The employer does not propose to make changes to existing contracts of employment at this stage. This is because imposed changes to terms and conditions without collective or individual agreement could be deemed to be unlawful.
The Cabinet Office has circulated guidance which states that any “proposed changes will apply to new entrants and potentially staff on promotion”.
We understand that a number of Government Departments have decided on this basis to limit imposed detrimental arrangements to new starters only.
HMRC have decided to apply changes to existing staff at the point of promotion.
Members will instantly recognise the perversity of these proposals which penalise staff for achieving promotion. We are unaware of any employer, in the public or private sector, which operates similar arrangements.
The impact of these proposals is likely to be disastrous and the proposals are likely to represent a massive disincentive for many staff to seek promotion particularly as the pay rise associated with a promotion becomes progressively less valuable as a result of pay freezes/severe restraint.
We have sought to persuade HMRC that it is out of step with other government departments on this issue and have noted that it is consciously placing itself in a position where it is imposing the most extreme set of arrangements across Government.
We made this point directly to Chief Executive, Lin Homer, at a meeting last week. Members will note the response – a letter dated 1 May inviting us to comment on proposals which are being imposed on 1 May.
The Group Executive Committee (GEC) considered the offer at its meeting yesterday. In accordance with the NEC decision, the employer’s offer letter will now be referred to the National Disputes Committee (NDC) with a unanimous GEC position of formal rejection.
We understand that the ARC union will also reject the ‘offer’.
A further Branch Briefing will be issued shortly setting out what we are asking Branches and members to do. This will include:
1. Formal opposition from every Branch to the proposals which we shall publish on our website.
2. Alert members to the detrimental changes planned and inform members how they can directly register their opposition to these proposals.
3. Submit comments for inclusion in our response letter.
4. Use planned activity for Tax Justice Week to explain personally to members the nature of the proposed changes.
At its meeting yesterday, the Group Executive Committee agreed to submit an emergency motion to our conference on these proposals. The motion sets out a suggested response to these proposals including action that members may be asked to take.
Deputy Group Secretary
Download a copy of the final offer from HMRC to PCS here.