Many of you will be aware of the circumstances in which PCS are operating in HMRC – I won’t elaborate upon that other than to say that it has made the process of consultation and negotiation very difficult.
To be clear though, the circumstances are not of PT Operations’ making, far less of PCS’s.
Annual Leave negotiations were always going to be incredibly challenging following the publication of the Personal Tax Business Plan in April. This shows that PT Operations expect to have over 4500 less people – 23% of the workforce – in April 2015 than at the same time this year. Whatever efficiencies the department are expecting to gain by the introduction of digitisation and other changes, these will clearly not be realised in time to satisfy taxpayers’ demand on our services within 6 months.
Therefore, it was entirely predictable that PT Operations would be faced with some difficult decisions over annual leave allowances with the consequential detrimental impact on our hard working members.
Initially PT Ops told us they were considering reducing leave allowances – which had already been publicised – from now until April 2015, including this Christmas period. We rejected this approach, referencing the very public way these percentages had been communicated and how any deviation from this would likely be received by our membership. Following our intervention the leave allowances until April 2015 will not be revisited.
In October we were asked to choose between two scenarios for 2015/16:
- Reduced leave availability for all weeks following bank holidays
- Reduced leave availability for all weeks following bank holidays and also for the Christmas and New Year period in 2015/16.
Again, we rejected both of these approaches, and instead have worked with PT Ops on an alternative way forward.
We have made some real progress based on where we started negotiations and in the face of overwhelming odds against. Today’s message includes the following:
- A commitment that all members in PT Operations will be able to take their full contractual leave entitlement during their leave year. If leave needs to be approved over and above allocations to achieve this and reasonable steps have been taken to plan leave, this will be done.
- A commitment that all members in PT Operations will be able to take up to a minimum 2 week block of leave, or 10 isolated days of leave or any variation in between during the summer months (June, July and August). If leave needs to be approved over and above allocations to achieve this, this will be done. This now makes clear that whilst members are entitled to the full 10 days as a right, you will also be able to request between 1 and 9 days as a right as well without the need to take the full entitlement.
- A commitment that all members will be able to take a 5 day block of leave on 3 other occasions during the year. If leave needs to be approved over and above allocations to achieve this, this will be done.
- A confirmation that the short term leave planning arrangements that made it impossible for members to plan how they wish to use their annual leave entitlement has now gone for good. Leave allocations have been published today for the whole of the 2015/16 tax year almost 6 months in advance for the first time ever.
- The significant improvements to leave availability over the Christmas and New Year period secured for 2014 will apply for 2015 as well. In Contact Centres and telephony enabled sites, this means an allocation of 60% over the festive period from Christmas Eve to New Years Eve. In non-telephony enabled sites there will be no allocations made for the entire festive fortnight period and sites will only be required to maintain a minimal skeleton staff.
- Improvements secured to higher leave availability at peak leave periods, such as Easter (2 weeks), late Spring and August Bank Holidays, where allocations of 25% will be made available, have been retained.
- Regional and local variations retained to take account of different Bank Holidays in different countries and the variable timing of summer school holidays in different Local Education Authorities.
- A minimum 20% leave allocation in most months in most work areas throughout the year – in telephony enabled sites, 20% leave allocations will be available for 38 weeks of the year and, in non telephony enabled sites, this increases to 42 weeks of the year, with buffers in place in a further 7 weeks to ensure that members are not denied leave at key times of the year.
- Members working in small management teams, specialist or support teams will now not be included in the leave percentages but rather a common sense approach to cover will apply
- Leave will be transparently recycled between different locations, with the process for doing this shared with PCS, to ensure that unused leave in one location is made available elsewhere where there is demand for it.
- A commitment that your local PCS reps will meet with local management to discuss the leave procedures prior to their introduction.
- An overall small increase on the availability of leave over the course of the year
Management have also reconfirmed to us that authority for approving leave ultimately rests with the line manager and line managers will continue to be empowered to approve leave requests over and above allocations where a member of their team needs leave for a particular reason at a particular time.
While we do not wish to be too prescriptive about how this is managed at a local level, this does mean, for example, that members should now be able to have confidence that they will be able to get leave for special occasions such as weddings or birthdays and that, where requests for a particular date exceed the allocation by a narrow margin, all requests should be granted. We shall be relying on LTUS reps to engage with managers in their sites, working with them to embed this new process and to feed back through the business TUS structures on how this is operating in practice.
As the note from the Director states, in order to deliver upon these commitments senior management are looking at ‘smarter ways of working’ to manage peak leave demand ‘hotspots’ and they will ask our people in support, technical and some management roles to answer calls for short periods. PCS will be consulted about how this will happen in practice and have already been offered and accepted input on the training this will require to ensure that the experience is what our members deserve.
There is still significant work to be done by local and national PCS reps in conjunction with PT Ops managers at all levels to realise these fundamental commitments. However, we believe that this represents a significant achievement at a time when resources are being stretched like never before. For the avoidance of doubt, whilst today’s announcement represents significant progress as a result of the organised intervention of PCS, we have communicated to management that we are unable to formally agree the culmination of negotiations as they do not meet the full terms of resolution EM7 from conference this year.
We have also received a positive response from PT Ops Director Dorothy Brown to our request for detailed negotiations on future working patterns, changes to team leader workloads and other crucial issues for PCS members working in Personal Tax. Once arrangements are finalised we will communicate this in detail to you.
We should recognise, however, that the progress made demonstrates the effective difference the recognised independent trade union PCS can make to the material conditions of members working lives and serves as an example to all levels of HMRC on how we can work constructively towards common ground for the benefit of all. We are stronger together and can make a real difference.
As usual, we welcome feedback on this briefing and on leave arrangements generally and would ask that this is passed through your local reps in the usual way.