Redundancies update: Timetable revealed

26 Jun 2020

Key decisions will be made months before redundancy-avoidance project reports. 

PCS has made it clear to HMRC that their timetable for implementing redundancies, means that their ‘flexible working’ project, designed to see if redundancies can be avoided, will be totally pointless for most of the 2,000 members of staff currently threatened with losing their jobs.

Fighting for jobs

The union has long-since made it clear to HMRC that having launched a project aimed at identifying whether flexible working options could avoid the need for redundancies, but then announcing redundancies months before that project is due to report, is ‘putting the cart before the horse’.

PCS also made it clear that we’ve had an assurance from Ministers that redundancies won’t happen unless they’re “necessary and unavoidable”. We’ve already raised our objection to the department’s redundancy plans with the most senior Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove; and with Mervyn Thomas – head of employee relations for the Cabinet Office. We’ve been told we can expect to hear from Lord Agnew – the Minister who gave PCS the redundancies assurance in the first place.

You can be confident that PCS hasn’t given up on the fight to defend jobs against the threat of the unnecessary redundancy plans.

Timetable revealed

While we’re still fighting the redundancy plans, obviously we’re not refusing to engage with the employer on the subject. So PCS has now held an initial meeting with HMRC to discuss the department’s timetable for handling the proposed redundancy exercise; the biggest to date - involving around 2,000 members of staff.

Despite HMRC’s claim that if the ‘flexible working’ project indicates that redundancies can be avoided, staff will have the opportunity to remain with the department; their redundancy timetable tells a very different story. For example:

  • Flexibility requests will be assessed by the department between two and four months before the project reports; and
  • The final decision about whether flexible working can be used as a means of avoiding the redundancies, will be taken a month before the flexible working project even reports.

Additionally, the timetable confirms that voluntary and compulsory redundancies are scheduled to take place at the end of December 2020, just one month after the redundancy avoidance project reports.

Leaving aside the fact that absolutely no-one is going to wait until a month before they’re due to be made redundant, before making plans for their future; the fact remains that the big decisions (such as the “cross HMRC assessment of flexible working request and redeployment options”) will be taken in September – a full two months before the “flexible working” project reports.

‘Panicked rush’ for redundancies

When HMRC first issued their redundancies ‘briefing pack’ for managers, a copy found its way into our hands. Imagine our surprise when there was no practical mention about the possibility of redundancies being avoided via the flexibility project; indeed the text implied that such an avoidance wasn’t even a possibility.

PCS raised this more-or-less vital point with HMRC, and the material was amended. But it does beg the question ‘are omissions like this because they are rushing the redundancy process?’ or, worse still, ‘do they really not care what comes out of the ‘flexible working’ report?’

Another example of the almost panicked rush to proceed with redundancies can be found in the covering email to unions, containing the material they planned to send to the affected members of staff. The email states:

“Please note that these documents are still subject to change…as we are still working through some of the details”.

Yet in the material rushed-out to members just six working days later, you get situations arising like the case where a member receives an email saying:

“I am writing to you about the Voluntary Redundancy scheme launching today.  I am sorry to tell you that we are not able to include your personalised [compensation scheme] quote with your offer when made later today.  The reason for this is that we have not yet received your personalised quote from MyCSP.”

Then less than an hour later, the member receives the documentation, minus the quote, and a covering email which says:

“We hope you now have all the information you need to decide if you will accept or decline your Voluntary Redundancy offer”.

Unconvincing

In our initial meeting, management told unions they recognised that they have a difficult job convincing us they’re serious about retaining staff in the department. We would suggest that taking decisions about the viability of flexible working, months before the report saying whether or not it’s viable is published, isn’t a terribly convincing start.

If you have any questions about the content of this article, please contact group president Lorna Merry at lornam@pcs.org.uk, assistant group secretary John Smith at john.smith3@hmrc.gov.uk or group secretary Martin Kelsey at rcgroup@pcs.org.uk. Alternatively you can contact your local PCS representative.

 

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