PCS welcomes the end of PDS - New appraisal system to be introduced

27 Aug 2008

DWP are announcing today their proposals for a new appraisal system in DWP. These proposals spell the end of the discredited PDS system and go a very long way to addressing many of the serious concerns that PCS members have had with PDS.

The key changes

  • Abolition of relative assessment
  • Abolition of the distribution quotas for Box marks
  • Performance to be assessed against the achievement of objectives and competencies, not against your peers
  • A three box system: 1-‘Exceptional’, 2-‘Making a Difference’ and 3-‘Unsatisfactory’. Management expect that the overwhelming majority of staff would be in the ‘Making a Difference’ level with the top level being only for those who are seen as genuinely exceptional performers.
  • Level 3 to be restricted to the very small numbers of staff in formal unsatisfactory performance procedures
  • Equal Performance Bonuses for Level 1 and 2 performers
  • Greater emphasis on staff development and on in-year performance recognition and reward, including more emphasis on Special Bonuses

End of PDS

There is no doubt that these are fundamental changes. The abolition of relative assessment and the quota system for box marks has been a key PCS demand since PDS was introduced in 2003. The years of campaigning by PCS, and the unrelenting pressure for change from members, have finally persuaded management that PDS had to go. PCS wants to reach a position where appraisal ceases to be a source of conflict between our members and management and we believe that the changes announced today are an opportunity to achieve this.

The new appraisal system

The details of management’s new appraisal system have not yet been fully developed. There is no reason why the introduction of a 3 box system should not be an improvement though it is essential that it is subject to detailed consultation with PCS to ensure that it operates reasonably and decisions are transparent, justified and fair.

PCS does have some concerns with the new proposals particularly any increase in the use of the Special Bonus scheme to reward performance. The Special Bonus scheme has proven to be an unfair and unpopular method of rewarding staff. It is completely reliant on the discretion of individual managers as to when it is used and staff have little idea what they may need to do in order to be awarded the bonus. PCS firmly believes that any money set aside for Special Bonuses should be spent on improving basic pay.

Management’s proposal to make the top performance level difficult to achieve is also a cause for concern. The definition of “exceptional performance” must be consistent with “SMART” criteria and open for all staff to achieve. However the proposal to pay the same performance bonus to both level 1 and level 2 performers does make this much less contentious. In fact the introduction of flat rate bonuses effectively removes the main link between performance and pay in DWP - another longstanding PCS goal.

Consultation with staff

Management are embarking on a process of consultation with staff on their proposals. They will be ensuring that discussions are held during team meetings and a questionnaire is being sent to 10,000 staff as well. This will give members a final opportunity to once again tell DWP that relative assessment and quotas must be abolished. PCS will be fully involved and the final proposals must be subject to detailed consultation with PCS as required under the Corporate Employee Relations Framework.


PCS believes that members will welcome DWP’s proposals to abolish relative assessment and distribution quotas. While any new appraisal system can bring problems with it, the removal of the worst features of PDS, that for so long have been so deeply unpopular, is something to celebrate. Members are bound to have views on the new arrangements being proposed. PCS will set up a dedicated email address to receive views and concerns from members. Members may also pass their views to their branch reps. Branches should feed their views through to the DWP Group Office. PCS will keep members fully informed as more detail becomes clear about the new scheme.

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