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General News April

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Our information remains that there continue to be serious issues in BoF funding. Then again, we have the largest Finance Bill ever according to some sources. It is all go.


We wondered when we would see the advancing of some timetables and lo and behold we have seen this in the last few weeks in the South East and finally the decision to save – for a time anyway – the NCU. Why say you want to provide staff with the greatest information for the future and then change things? Well in any project of this complexity there will be changes but things like the NCU was a no-brainer.
As for the South East – the London sections are obviously absorbing money – see budget above – so any chance to move things within a “reasonable” distance will be taken. We still maintain that there are numerous serious pitfalls in this project and denuding the shires of footfall is incorrect. There are serious flaws in the future plans that need to be discussed – now. Only the RCTU knows these and has coherent and logical ideas to solve them.

Blocked Moves

This is where senior leaders have decided that some posts are “business critical” and that staff are to be stopped from applying for “level moves” – moving from a post at your current grade to another post at your current grade. Now this has happened before and there is guidance based on what was negotiated in the old days – yes, another reminiscence from the RCTU senior officers. Basically, the business criticality must be of a short duration, explained in writing to the staff about when it will commence and when it will end and most importantly setting out in detail why.
This appears not to be the case in the instances reported to us. This is unacceptable.
Then to compound the situation the senior leaders have imposed this is situations where offices are scheduled to close. To deny someone the chance to remove themselves from what is in reality a “pre-redundancy” situation which may mean they are made redundant in due course because of such a “ruling” contravenes employment law in our view aside from being utterly ridiculous.
This has to stop and stop now. It will increase if left unchecked but worse, if that is possible, than this situation is the fact that senior leaders felt they could do this to staff who are seeing their jobs taken away after years of hard work and service shows unbridled disrespect for staff. It is nothing short of a mockery of engagement and staff welfare – and we have more to say on what appears to be the duplicity here in the section below.

When you should never feel ill

The revised guidance on the issue of a formal written warning for sickness absence has been highlighted by the RCTU however what we are seeing in practice is a complete reinterpretation of the guidance through to wilful misreading of the guidance. There is a complete lack of empathy by the employer for those with genuine illnesses – many of those suffering from work related stress (this is especially nauseating when we have all been bombarded with message about how the employer is listening when it comes to mental health – the irony is not lost). It has to be said and said again – the overwhelming vast majority of sickness absence in HMRC is genuine. There is no evidence to the contrary yet we see what amounts to crass pseudo hard management for all staff who have the misfortune to be ill.

If this was not enough when it comes to work related stress the changes to Disability Leave are detrimental and then coupled with a total refusal of the employer to see that as it is work related, certain absences must be discounted before the consideration of a formal warning. In fact, in some cases we have seen such a misreading of the guidance combined with extended periods (years in one case) of absence being reviewed historically meaning that on every level the member of staff is heading to that warning. When those staff that do have work related stress issues then get treated like that – the outcome is increased stress and anxiety. It would be impossible to make this up.
There needs to be ONE policy for HMRC staff not subject to whims of a command. There must be clear and unambiguous guidance.
Staff who we know have never seen their employment at HMRC as being a way to become paranoid report to us their deep fear as to exactly why their colleagues are being treated like this and what will happen to them when they have the misfortune to be ill.
It is very noticeable the strain this is putting on managers (as with the issue below) and we are concerned that they are following instructions they find incomprehensible with all the stress and anxiety that come from that. We are asking a lot of our front-line managers at a time when they need more support not more stress.


Specifically, HR guidance – we have noted that recent changes appear to be subject to little or no review. Where we think they have been - it is doubtful if this was by those with the experience of the systems and processes they detail to fully comprehend the need for unambiguous and clear wording. Furthermore, guidance needs to work in the real world against clear objectives and the meaning and direction of those objectives must be fully explored and understood.
It is clear the Sickness Absence guidance is open to interpretation but also the revised Conduct guidance – notably what and how to investigate requires urgent review. We are dealing with a number of serious cases where we are seeing the processes causing delays and problems for all involved. This is not what should be the situation.
We need to urgently review the problem areas alongside the evidence of the failings of the current arrangements.
Performance Management
There still remains a lot of detail missing on the new system. Yes, the hated “guided distribution” has gone and yes there are attempts to reduce the burden of the system on employees and managers thereby making it easier to operate. However, some of the emerging “guidance” is detailed when it comes to how a person will be marked. Based on an equal split between achievements and behaviours. The behaviours need to be directly linked to the Civil Service Competency Framework and not a list that can magically appear at the year end. “I noticed that in one meeting you said nothing and therefore ….” – yes it still happens.
The” leaders” objectives have the repeated “example” (it does say example and not a complete list but …) “fully engage and work with BoF events and outcomes” – slight paraphrasing but unless you do - forget the exceeded.
As we have repeatedly said – the system must be easier to operate, clear and transparent, with little or no jargon. It still does not appear to be that.
As for the dying throes of the old system – a few reports of the usual tomfoolery countered by our advice for our members. Expect however the guided distribution to come in on target – the benchmark for the system?


We have said in recent articles here that for someone on the same grade over the last 10 years – they have suffered a 26% pay cut in real terms. With inflation rising and the 1% cap still in place we again call on the Department to make the case, as they can in the Treasury guidance, for a pay rise above the 1%.
We must reform the pay scales and address other anomalies in our pay.
Our message to our senior management - You cannot in all honesty continue to treat the staff who have done so very well in maximising tax revenue and service to customers in the way that you do – change this now.


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