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News and more news

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It has been a busy period these last few weeks – changes to Performance Management, Managing Attendance and of course major re-organisations in HMRC and ISBC.

We have felt it was appropriate to let some of these topics be absorbed by members before making comments based on feedback and observations.

In this public section of the news here – we are commenting on PM and MA – please see below. In the Membership News section we will comment on the re-organisations and the impacts of those. Members will need their unique password to access Membership News. If you have misplaced your password – please Contact Us.


Performance Management

Members will recall the previously published articles on the PM “trial” in the VOA and also may have heard about the MOD PMR “story” – as per CEO Jon Thompson’s diary blog. This was followed up by an intranet announcement to HMRC staff.

Basically you have a change of name from “must improve” to “development needed” – those of you with long memories will recall this phrase from previous appraisal systems allied to streamlined “moderation” meetings ( rather than “validation” ) – another old phrase – but with liberal use of the Performance Wave with the chair of the meeting “empowered to agree final markings”. There will be monthly meetings focusing on your “performance and development” – monthly meetings being what should have been the case anyway - but all underpinned by “guided distribution”.


First the “good news” –

No written evidence unless you “need development” – is this really good news? While your marking should never come as a surprise – it is unfortunately the case that it does – at the end of the year. So when you then have to refute this – it is all the harder to compile the evidence.

Members should keep a record of all performance throughout the year including, but not exclusively, written confirmation of good work being acknowledged.


Now the problems (there are more of these we see) –

“Moderation” – if the chair is independent of your line management command and does not know you – to ensure fair moderation and independence - how will they examine any recommendation from your line manager? If you dispute the marking and it is not “development needed” – there is no written evidence. What about if you have no dispute but are selected as “borderline or a spot check” and it is not “development needed”? - there is no written evidence.

Is the chair “empowered to agree final markings” to ensure “guided distribution” is met? We have seen this in operation even in small teams at validation meetings where managers are kept there until it is met on the whim of the senior manager (chair) - even when HR is present to ensure “fairness”. Empowered means take responsibility – work it out from there.

Then we come to the Performance Wave – it uses “behaviour” (that seems to have disappeared from any mention in the announcement) – something that has been used in a non objective evidential manner far too often. For most that will signify their placement in the “guided distribution” without any evidence other than the verbal pronouncements made by the manager – albeit those , in the main , will be made in good faith. The PW when it was gradually introduced from 2010 onwards was always an area of deep concern over the embedded subjective nature of PW operation. Behaviour in the Civil Service Competency Framework (CSCF) is NOT the same as inappropriate behaviour - which is a disciplinary matter. Conflating the two through the misuse of a word is incorrect.

So really we have name changes (which honestly no one with a modicum of sense will believe means things are different so why do it?), reinforcing of good practice with regular monthly meetings – where your marking must be disclosed – (it does not say that but it should be the case and you should insist upon it and get that confirmed in writing) – validation now “moderating” with the flaws (not an exclusive list) noted above and the ever present “guided distribution”.

Yes this should reduce the burden on managers and rightly so from an overly bureaucratic system that did previously exist but this smacks of a halfway house at best and not examined for the detail. It may make it even harder to appeal against a marking and it does not diminish the role, in reality, for any employee (even managers are managed).

These changes are merely to reduce the burden on managers who have long complained about the time consuming nature of the present system – and rightly so and something we have long said - but it does not remove major issues in PM for all staff.

Lastly let us be clear – guided distribution is not guided but forced – as we have clearly evidenced in our previous articles on PM. It is a perversion of fairness and equal opportunity and not the way to run a system of appraisal that engenders engagement and trust from the hard working and long suffering employees of HMRC.


We believe –

  • There should be no guided distribution
  • That targets must be wholly within the control of an individual to deliver (no hard and uncontrolled individual targets)
  • That subjective behaviour assumptions be removed from all sections of the PM process (“behaviour” for PM is linked only and directly to CSCF)


Only by these main changes will staff begin to have confidence and not, unfortunately not misplaced, paranoia and fear over a system that does not work for anyone.

You, the members, tell us your view further to shape (y)our policy. We would welcome any and all feedback from members. Please Contact Us



Managing Attendance

Some of the key changes

  • removing the informal warning stage
  • adopting trigger points for formal action
  • recording part-day absences
  • an increased focus on continuous absence to facilitate a return to work at the earliest opportunity
  • more proactive use of the wellbeing services including Occupational Health and Workplace Wellness


This has been done, it says, at the behest of managers. It can only be that manager’s discretion about informal action has been abandoned for a one size fits all approach. We are individuals and only the line manager will know the circumstances of the individual and any absence. Much much more detail is required to analyse and understand these changes.

We would welcome feedback from members before commenting further but this is symptomatic of lack of engagement – again. Please Contact Us with your views.


And to finish...

Two things to finish with – it was Pension Awareness Week last week (w/c 12/9 ) – we would welcome feedback as some members have commented on the lack and contradictory nature of the Civil Service Pension Website.

And lastly – the offer to employees of discounts and savings (one had to laugh at the tax and NI “savings references) being offered by HMRC through a third party external service. All employees should have received the “offer” as an email coupled with announcements on the Intranet. We refrain from mentioning the name for the reasons below.

While if one was to be feeling magnanimous it could be viewed as the employer trying to provide other forms of benefits due to the continued ( please read as ever lasting ) inhibits on hard working staff every getting a decent pay rise. However and also in concert with the changes to the Pay Roll Giving provider there are questions to be raised about the security of employee details. Our members are increasingly dealing with confrontation as a normal part of their duties. In some, and it has to be said increasing, cases this mean criminality of all hues. In other cases this is taxpayers who find themselves as a result of our work having to pay more. It is unfortunately as fertile ground


Whatever the case and with hacking of systems all over the news, what are the safeguards? When a member recently asked very pertinent questions due to the type of duty they carried out about data security of the third party – no reply was forthcoming.

Something to ponder?

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