9 February 2022

PCS to withdraw from Cabinet Office respect and inclusion review unless changes made

PCS has told the Cabinet Office we will be withdrawing cooperation with its respect and inclusion review into racism and other discrimination in the department unless there are major changes about how it is conducted.

The Cabinet Office launched the review last year into respect and inclusion following pressure from PCS amid accusations of racism as well as unfairness towards disabled staff.

The Cabinet Office has the worst record for bullying and harassment in the whole civil service – this is all the more shocking since the department is supposed to be the exemplar and standard setter for other government departments.

Ex-Cabinet Office PCS member, Kay Badu, was handed a six-figure settlement by the government over allegations of racial discrimination in Whitehall, with then deputy cabinet secretary, Dame Helen Macnamara warning that there was a “systemic issue” in the Cabinet Office.

Speaking to the Independent, Kay summed up his experience and that of other black staff by saying: “We enter the civil service with jet black hair and hope. We leave with grey hair and broken hearts.”

Although the Cabinet Office states it does not accept the claims, the department did settle out of court for a six-digit sum.

Familiar story

Unfortunately, Kay’s story is all too familiar for staff with protected characteristics. PCS has constantly called upon the Cabinet Office to deal with these issues, which are both systemic and culturally ingrained. It was after we referred the Cabinet Office to the Equality and Human Rights Commission that the department finally gave ground and announced it would be conducting an inclusion review.

The department rejected PCS proposals that would deliver an open and transparent review that staff could have confidence in, including using organisations with expertise in investigating racism and other forms of discrimination. The Cabinet Office chose to engage IPSOS MORI instead to conduct the review work.

The Cabinet Office has inadequately resourced the review, squeezed the time the review team has to conclude its work and refused to publish the full report or share it with the unions. PCS feels unable to satisfy itself to the quality of the final report and has constantly been rebuffed when it has called on senior management to be open and work with the unions and staff to create a workplace with zero tolerance for bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Yesterday (8 February) PCS wrote to Sarah Harrison, the chief operating officer, advising that we will be withdrawing from co-operation in the review in 5 working days unless the department agrees to the following:

  • The final report of the respect and inclusion review to be published in full
  • The number of employees given a personal meeting with IPSOS MORI to be increased to an agreed level to properly capture the lived experience of racism and other discrimination of staff.
  • An extension to the end of the review, by an agreed period of time, to ensure that the review panel has time to hold these meetings and properly consider them.