5 October 2021

'Return to Office' discussions at HMRC

PCS advice for members following the HMRC chief executive’s announcement that the department expects its staff to return to the office for an average of one day per week.

Following the HMRC chief executive’s announcement that the department expects its staff to return to the office for an average of one day per week during the coming month, you’re reminded that this should only happen if it takes your individual circumstances into account.

Remember there should be no return to the office until you have discussed your personal circumstances with your manager, using the new Toolkit designed for this purpose.

The process for discussions and the Toolkit has been agreed with PCS. It’s mandatory for this to have been completed and agreement reached between the jobholder and their line manager before any return to the office happens.

Even if you think there won’t be any problems meeting HMRC’s request, it’s essential that the discussion with your manager happens, so that any concerns about returning to the workplace can be identified and addressed.

PCS has reiterated to the department that any attempt to force members back to the office would be unacceptable. For its part, HMRC has given a commitment to working with staff, to take reasonable steps to address their concerns and to support them to return. We’ve agreed with HMRC that any concerns arising from the agreed process and procedures will be escalated and resolved.

Safety first

From the onset, PCS has made it clear to HMRC that the safety of our members and the wider community are our principal concerns, when considering any return to offices. We remain in the midst of a global emergency, with more than 7 million UK cases of Covid-19 reported since the start of the pandemic. PCS and HMRC agree that it is important that we continue with a measured, cautious approach to ensure workplace safety.

We welcome the decision to keep occupancy numbers in buildings low, and that safe distancing will continue to be practiced.

Follow the guidance

Over the past year, around 4,000 staff have been regularly attending HMRC workplaces. Anyone considering attending an office has been required to first discuss this with their line manager and go through the Toolkit appropriate to their situation. The same process will now become mandatory for all staff, before any return to an office is allowed.

You’ll also need to take account of the government guidance that applies to the part of the UK where you work. Following talks with PCS, a new Toolkit has been published, specifically designed to guide the discussion.

By using the Toolkit, you and your manager will be able to identify a date when you can start to return to the office, for an average of one day a week.

PCS's advice is clear: the discussions between jobholders and managers must happen, so that any concerns about returning can be identified. Where it is not yet possible to establish a set date when you will start working in the office, you can continue to work from home; and you should agree with your manager when during the coming weeks, the situation will be reviewed.

Further assistance

HMRC has made it clear that this policy applies across the department, irrespective of business area; and therefore, all staff are covered by the single set of policies and policy guidance, published on the Covid HR Policies SharePoint Site.

If you have any concerns please contact your local PCS rep.