Management ask 178 staff to acquiesce to redundancy
We alerted you recently to the decision by HMRC to move the 178 staff that had previously been declared surplus into the next stage of the process designed to assist in avoiding compulsory redundancies being declared. The stage known as “Period of Reflection” (PoR), lasts a minimum of 6 weeks and should involve detailed scrutiny of the situation facing each member of staff at risk of redundancy.
Interestingly, HMRC have declined to make an announcement on this situation generally to HMRC staff and have blocked PCS from issuing advice to members via departmental systems. This is a distinctly odd attitude from an employer that is allegedly attempting to improve its engagement with its employees.
Three meetings under the PoR have been held so far with representatives from HMRC, Cabinet Office, NTUC (National Trade Union Committee) and DTUS (Departmental Trade Union Side) in attendance. A further meeting has been scheduled for later this month.
PCS has formally objected to the decision by HMRC to invoke the PoR. We believe that if the full set of redundancy avoidance tools were to be applied, there would be no need for anybody to be forced to leave under Compulsory Redundancy terms. Our negotiators will continue to make this argument with the employer, but it is now looking increasingly likely that if HMRC do not adopt a more flexible approach then Compulsory Redundancies will be the result.
We have raised among other things 2 specific matters with HMRC. The first relates to redundancy swaps. Previously HMRC indicated to staff at risk of redundancy that this was a possibility. On 6 August HMRC stated the following in a briefing these staff:
“Q. I work in an office where there are people in the same grade as me who aren’t surplus. Can I swap with one of them?
A. We won’t be considering swaps until we’ve explored all other possible solutions, and then only if we felt would be practical to do so, given individual circumstances.”
HMRC and Civil Service Resourcing have however stated clearly to PCS that given the entry into PoR this option cannot now be considered. They also state that had requests for redundancy swaps been made at the appropriate time by individuals or by the union these would have been considered. However HMRC haven’t provided any clarity as to when was the appropriate time to make such a request.
In early November PCS became aware that DMB had agreed to loan some of their surplus staff to ISBC in order to undertake some Taskforce work. PCS welcomed this development as staff concerned believed quite understandably that they would no longer be at risk of redundancy. However when PCS sought confirmation from HR that the staff concerned would no longer be considered to be surplus the loan was terminated and the staff were put back at risk of redundancy. The following reason was given in a letter issued by the DMB Director:
“The key principle of Regional Centres is that all new or increased work will only be undertaken in emerging Regional Centres and not moved to non-Regional Centre sites to artificially create or protect jobs.”
PCS have challenged this with HMRC and explained that the above statement made by the DMB Director is not consistent with the provisions of HR91010 – extract attached to this briefing. This sets out the redundancy avoidance measures HMRC states that they will consider in an effort to avoid redundancy. One of those is:
“•transferring of surplus staff on a permanent basis to other areas of work or transfer of work to areas with surplus staff”
PCS have also pointed out that HMRC are currently externally recruiting staff into sites which are not emerging Regional Centres. Given that HMRC management have stated that the department can undertake its work effectively regardless of where its staff are based PCS feel that can be done far more to avoid compulsory redundancies.
“…We can catch those who break the rules – regardless of where we are based.”
[Extract from Building Our Future Locations – Internal Q&A]
PCS have reminded HMRC and Civil Service Resourcing of the following commitment given by the Chief People Officer on 6 August:
“…It’s important to emphasise that today [6 August] is the start of a rigorous process. We’re not announcing any compulsory redundancies now. The consultation will ensure that we’ve done everything we can to avoid that outcome. If we can find a way to avoid even one compulsory redundancy, we’ll pursue it. We’ll also work with Civil Service Resourcing and the National Trade Union Committee to discuss each person still at risk, to make sure that all alternatives have been considered. We’ll issue notices of compulsory redundancy only if there is no alternative.”
PCS are clear that at present that commitment hasn’t been fulfilled.
It is truly staggering that at a time when thousands of jobs are being advertised by HMRC that the employer should even countenance throwing people out of work and taking away their livelihoods. Equally disgraceful is the decision to rule out redundancy avoidance options such as moving work to offices where members are under threat of Compulsory Redundancy; the very same sort of flexibility that HMRC deploys when under political pressure during times of peak demand, such as approaching the SA return deadline in January and the Tax Credit renewal peak in the Summer.
If HMRC won’t listen to the legitimate demands of our members that want to keep their jobs then they will need to be made to listen. PCS has already briefed parliamentarians on the failure of HMRC to follow its own agreements and procedures in respect of the members at threat of Compulsory Redundancy. The UK parliament and the devolved administrations will continue to be a focus for raising arguments about the retention of jobs and workers in HMRC. It is though, increasingly clear that further action will be necessary if we are to get this intransigent employer to reconsider its options, and lift the threat to staff who want to remain in employment, in a department where there is clearly enough work for them to do.
PCS are aware that some staff who are at risk of redundancy have exercised their right to contact their Member of Parliament to express their concern about the way they have been treated.
The GEC will be meeting later this month to consider the situation on the threatened Compulsory Redundancies and the wider threat to dismantle the UK taxation system via the erroneously named Building Our Future (BoF) programme.
Members who have received the further communication from HMRC asking them to consider acquiescing to redundancy are reminded that they have access to support and advice both from the union locally and the GEC negotiating team.
Members are not obliged to agree to acquiesce to redundancy, and should not feel pressurised by management into making such a decision. If you want to remain employed as a civil servant HMRC is obliged to continue to assist in finding you a suitable alternative job by using all of the agreed redundancy avoidance measures.
It is important that as soon as possible staff at risk of redundancy undertake the following actions:
- meet with their line manager to review what action has been taken to avoidance redundancy. In particular whether all the redundancy avoidance measures set out in HR91010 have been considered. Details of the measures that have been considered and those that have been ruled out should be recorded on the redeployment plan.
- If this hasn’t been done already the line manager should provide an explanation as to the reason(s) why the member of staff is in a redundancy situation. PCS have received a number of approaches from surplus staff who are querying whether they are in a genuine redundancy situation. For example they believe that if they left someone else would have to do their work. Alternatively they feel that colleagues in their office have backlogs of work that they could assist with undertaking.
- ensure that their redeployment plan is brought fully up to date and a copy is supplied to HR. PCS negotiators have access to the CAF on which HR store the redeployment plans.
The negotiating team urgently need to obtain a clear, up to date picture of each case to identify issues of concern and what outcomes are being sought. We will be contacting each Branch Secretary covering sites where there are staff at risk of redundancy over the next few days and will make direct contact with individuals facing redundancy where necessary.
For the purposes of this exercise, Hector Wesley will be the contact with Branches in London, The South East and Eastern England. Lorna Merry will cover the South West, Wales, Midlands and Yorkshire & Humberside whilst Clive Bryant will cover the North West, Northern England, Northern Ireland & Scotland.
We recognise that this is a lengthy briefing. However given the importance of the subject we thought it important to set out in some detail the issues arising from HMRC’s approach to this matter.
Extract from HR 91010: Leaving HMRC – Redundancy
1. This guidance sets out the overall approach and rules that the Department will adopt in the management of surpluses and redundancy. It has been agreed with the recognised Trades Unions. It brings together the pre-surplus rules that were available to staff in Customs and Excise and the provisions of the Redundancy Agreement available to staff in the Inland Revenue. Throughout these processes the Department will consult with the recognised Trades Unions with a view to reaching an agreement on the best way forward.
If it is clear that a staff surplus is likely to emerge in a given business/location then managers should consider using the pre-surplus rules (now Redeployment Guidance) agreed with the TUS. This will be the subject of further discussions.
2. The Department recognises the importance of maintaining security of employment and will use their best endeavours to avoid or minimise the need for redundancy, voluntary or compulsory.
3. At the stage when the Department is initially considering the need for redundancies (voluntary or compulsory), HR&L will consult the recognised trade unions representing the staff involved with a view to considering the ways of avoiding redundancies and will supply them with all relevant information that has led to the option being considered.
4. If, following consultation, the Department concludes that voluntary or compulsory redundancies are unavoidable, they will consult the Trades Unions with a view to agreeing on the best way forward and will explain the reasons for the proposal, the numbers and grading of the staff likely to be affected and other relevant information.
5. Consultation will cover consideration of all measures which might avoid or minimise the need for voluntary or compulsory redundancy including (but not in order of priority):
•transferring of surplus staff on a permanent basis to other areas of work or transfer of work to areas with surplus staff;
•employing suitable staff on a supernumerary basis where the future availability of a suitable post is foreseen;
•transferring staff on detached duty terms to other areas of work on a temporary basis;
•restricting recruitment and/or promotion and temporary promotion and a review of the use of fixed term appointees;
•reducing or eliminating overtime and consideration of applications for alternative working patterns;
•retraining staff for re-deployment to other work where vacancies exist;
•allowing surplus staff to block vacant posts in lower grades on a temporary basis;
•consider voluntary regrading or downgrading as an alternative to redundancy;
•inviting staff in the unit of redundancy to volunteer for redundancy on compulsory early retirement/severance terms;
•supporting staff, through the use of defined and agreed schemes, to leave HM Revenue & Customs on a voluntary basis; and taking action to find suitable alternative posts in Other Government Departments (OGDs).
6. The Department will consider whether surplus staff can be redeployed within the Department or elsewhere, including non-departmental public bodies. Mobile staff may be required to accept transfer to a post anywhere in the same grade but every effort will be made to find a suitable local post within daily travel (Staff formerly employed by Customs and Excise in a mobile grade who are declared surplus, will retain a reserved right, under the terms of their contract, not to be moved on a compulsory basis where it involves a move of home. This reserved right will end in the event of promotion). Staff with limited mobility will only be required to accept a transfer within reasonable daily travelling distance of their home. Normally, transfers will be to posts at the same or similar level with the same or similar entry requirements.
7. Where it is not possible to redeploy surplus staff within HM Revenue and Customs, HR&L and the HR&L Business Partners will make enquiries of other departments and non-departmental bodies, with a view to identifying any vacancies.
8. The Department may consider offering staff regrading, or downgrading, as an alternative to redundancy. In these cases, staff may retain their existing pay on a mark-time basis and their pension rights in the higher grade will be fully protected under the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 as amended.
9. Where staff accept regrading within HM Revenue & Customs, a trial period will apply. The purpose of the trial period is to enable staff and the Department to decide whether the alternative employment is suitable without staff losing any rights to be treated as redundant if it proves not to be. A reasonable length for the trial period, taking account of the nature of the job and any training required, will be agreed. A trial period will also apply where staff are re-deployed in a different specialism within the same grade. If it seems during the trial period that the new job is not going to work out, another trial period in another alternative job may be offered.