29 April 2022

PCS challenging HMRC's 'Return to Office' call for Wales

PCS is challenging HMRC's call for staff in Wales to return to the office, despite the Welsh Government maintaining 'Alert Level Zero' status.

On 28 April HMRC has issued four weeks’ notice of return to office to all staff in Wales. PCS is extremely disappointed and concerned that HMRC have decided to issue this notice, which PCS firmly believe is in direct contradiction to current Welsh Government guidance. Throughout the pandemic HMRC have given the commitment that they would adhere to guidance from devolved administrations, however this is clearly now not the case.

Clear guidance for employers

Wales remains at Covid Alert Level 0. This has been the case since 28 January 2022 and is due to be reviewed on 9 May. Further to this, the Welsh Government issued new guidance for employers on 18 April.  PCS believes that Public Health Advice gives a very clear steer.

The guidance clearly states that:

“This advice covers public health control measures (previously referred to as “reasonable measures”) which have been effective in mitigating risks during the pandemic. This includes:

  • sufficient ventilation;
  • robust cleaning and personal hygiene practices;
  • regular training;
  • physical distancing; (our emphasis)
  • enabling working from home; (our emphasis)
  • exclusion of symptomatic individuals and those who have tested positive for coronavirus; and
  • supporting vaccine take up.”

“The most effective way of minimising the risk of exposure to any communicable disease in workplaces is to enable some or all staff to work from home, as often as possible, particularly during high prevalence periods”

 “Employers who are considering requiring their staff to return to workplace settings should first assess whether alternative arrangements could meet the majority of business needs in order to minimise the risk of exposure to or spread of communicable diseases.”

Next steps

PCS has raised these points directly with HMRC, however they have taken the decision to proceed regardless of the current Welsh Government guidance, claiming that they are consistent with the advice.

PCS is continuing to make representations to HMRC, as well as to representatives within the Welsh Government.

In the meantime, we advise all members in Wales to ensure that any ‘1-2-1’ conversations taking place around any return to office take place using Return to Workplace discussion toolkit.

We also strongly advise that any PCS member who has any concerns around returning make this clear in any 1-2-1 and request that the Supported Return Plan toolkit is also used.

If Wales-based members have any additional concerns, we ask that you contact your local PCS rep or email PCSCardiffRC@hotmail.com