Office Closures – Update on Compensation
One of the strange things from the announcements from June and the follow up announcements in July was the statement regarding the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. As members will be only too well aware there has been a consultation exercise initiated by the Cabinet Office in February 2016 which concluded in May 2016. Staff were told that exists will have the “new” CSCS applies to them – one that has yet to be finalised. “Lovely and thank you” were not the replies from our members.
The RCTU consulted members in the period to May 2016 and replied accordingly. We strongly made the case for no change but also in the event the Government would not back down from these unnecessary and detrimental changes to devoted and hard working staff; there should be reserved rights for those in post when a change was promulgated and where an office closure had already been advised. By advised we mean staff in an office have been told the office will close in a particular year. That is the majority of offices in HMRC under the BoF programme. The definitive and therefore liable announcement was in 2015.
It was therefore interesting to say the least to see this in the VOA this week.
As you know we are in the process of closing nine offices during 2016/17 and some of you will be aware that changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) have impacted people who currently work in those offices..
(in an article that) was published on 8 February 2016 where (it was) explained that the Government are seeking to make changes to the CSCS to align with wider compensation reforms proposed across the public sector. This includes building on legislation introduced to end excessive six figure pay-outs in the public sector. The key principles for reform were laid out in a consultation document issued by Cabinet Office. The consultation period ended on 4 May 2016 and we are still awaiting the outcome.
The Cabinet Office did however announce in March 2016 that the new CSCS changes would apply to all exits after 31 October 2016. This directly impacted on our people in tranche two locations because our existing, and published estates plans, had all of our tranche two offices closing after 31 October 2016. This meant people who could not remain with the Agency would be leaving under proposed new redundancy terms on the date their office closed.
The Board were acutely aware of the negative impact this would have on those affected and have continued negotiations with Cabinet Office throughout this period.
Subsequently, Cabinet Office issued new instructions that - due to a delay in announcing the revised terms of the CSCS - they could now guarantee exits under existing terms if they take place by 30 November 2016. As both Carlisle and Teesside offices will close before this date, so the change meant that individuals declared surplus in those locations could be offered a Voluntary Redundancy Scheme under existing terms with a last day of service on the office closure date.
However as we began discussions on all our Estates tranche two closures at the same time, we did not feel it was right or fair to only offer this to people in Carlisle and Teesside. We wanted to extend the offer to all surplus people in these locations so we continued to talk to Cabinet Office about this and I am pleased to tell you that we were able to agree the following:
All individuals declared surplus in tranche two locations will be given the opportunity to depart the Agency on existing terms of the CSCS. Cabinet Office have given us approval to run a Voluntary Redundancy (VR) Scheme for:
Offering existing terms is better news for our people who are declared surplus from Tranche two closures and colleagues in HR have worked hard to reach this point. We do however realise that there may be an operational impact where individuals leave earlier than their office closure date in our 2017 closures. We will continue to work with managers and leaders to ensure that we are able to deliver our business throughout the closures.
The first thing to say is we have been unable to trace the March 2016 announcement stating that all exits after 31/10/16 would “attract” the reduced terms. It seems that the VOA, at least, have seen the morality of this situation and have negotiated with the Cabinet Office - albeit the perversity of a sham consultation cannot be overlooked. What also concerns the RCTU is while this applies to VOA staff we can find no mention, as of the date of writing this article, of the same applying to HMRC staff. This is not say the “reserved rights” detailed above are completely advantageous as it is only at the individual level can one see the impact on reduced months of service against a higher level of compensation. In some cases it may offer a better settlement; in other cases it may not. It depends on the length of your service.
We firmly believe that the real reserved right is the current terms of the CSCS (although that should still not be changed) against continued service until the stated and announced date of closure.
Should this (VOA statement) apply to HMRC staff? Yes, HMRC staff should “enjoy” the same for several reasons. Firstly VOA is a connected agency and the argument can be made the employer is the same (HMRC) but also, and this is been established in employment law, that in circumstances such as this and applying to the whole Civil Service as the CSCS does, the employer is the Government and therefore to avoid discrimination it applies to all serving Civil Servants.
There needs to be answers from a number of sources regarding all of this.
The Government (read as the Cabinet Office) needs to engage staff representatives. HMRC needs to engage staff representatives. Arbitrary decisions (any decision without representation for that matter) that have a huge impact of their own workers have no place in a modern Britain.
With a flexible and constructive approach by all - there are solutions - not least in the time it takes to run a process here which is the real cost factor- not the attack on the compensation level at an individual level. PBI again.
Lastly, the failure of HMRC to understand the case for location specific work and that it cannot and will not disappear coupled with slavish desire to accommodate (sic) Government estate plans – without a true and viable business case – have produced this situation. A situation we have been warning about for years and with ramifications only just becoming clear – as predicted - and with much more to come. Outcomes that are far from judicious to the UK.