11 March 2022

PCS withdraws from Cabinet Office’s flawed respect and inclusion review

PCS has confirmed to the Cabinet Office that we will no longer take part in its respect and inclusion review into racism and other discrimination in the department.

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

The CO has the worst record for bullying and harassment in the civil service. This is even more shocking since the department is supposed to be the exemplar and standard setter for other government departments.

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.

PCS has been campaigning for two years for the department to work with us to deal with racism and disability discrimination, but we have been met with defensiveness and intransigence. We will now pursue other options to ensure that this failing department is held to and upholds the standards which every working person has a right to expect.

Following a meeting of the PCS Cabinet Office Branch Executive, the branch officers wrote to Sarah Harrison, the chief operating officer (COO), on Wednesday (9March) to advise that PCS will no longer take part in the review.

PCS has sought to work cooperatively with the department, but management have resisted and appear to have seen the review as an exercise in damage limitation. And a key part of that strategy appears to be about keeping the unions at arm’s length, rather than embracing the openness and transparency that PCS called for.

In our letter to the COO, we set out the reasons why we are withdrawing from the review:

  • The CO refused to allow a trade union presence on the review’s management panel.
  • The department has soft peddled by not specifically referencing racism and disability discrimination.
  • Not focusing on the living experience of those suffering racism and disability discrimination.
  • A lack of opportunity for staff to have one-to-one meetings with IPSOS MORI.
  • Chaotic organisation of the panels of PCS members with IPSOS MORI, where the number of attendees was limited at the last moment.
  • A further meeting of PCS members with the review team, who are deemed independent, was facilitated by CO staff, and again this only came to light at the beginning of the meeting.
  • The timeline for the review has been too short, leading to chaotic organisation and having a potential impact upon the quality of the research undertaken.
  • Under-resourcing of the project has led to cancelled meetings, poor communications with PCS including failure to engage with our representatives and non-response to written questions that we deem important.
  • The Cabinet Office has sought to shield its senior leaders from any criticism that could emerge from the report and have deliberately chosen to put in place damage limitation by not providing the unions with the draft report.