Employer rips up the right to be accompanied at 1:1s
18 February 2016
HMRC have announced that they are issuing instructions that rip-up the long-standing arrangements for consulting staff affected by office closures and changes in location. The employer has confirmed that it is unilaterally changing its instructions on redeployment, with wholesale changes to procedures, including ending the right to be accompanied at meetings with managers. Under the new procedures, members will only have the right to be accompanied after management have made their decision.
PCS has made it clear that the changes to the instructions are unwelcome, impractical and will be widely perceived by members as a detrimental move that further undermines the trust between the employer and the workforce, which is already at an all-time low.
The key changes announced by the employer are:
• Staff will be instructed to attend meetings with their line manager with the threat that there will be disciplinary consequences if they do not attend;
• The absolute right to be accompanied at the meeting is withdrawn; only where managers agree that individuals require support can staff be accompanied by a colleague;
• Google Maps is specified as the guide to follow when considering journey times.
As recently as mid-January HMRC agreed that staff should have the right to be accompanied at their 1:1 meeting.
Although staff have the right to appeal any decisions, the appeal process will follow the departmental guidance which has not been agreed by the trade unions. HMRC have also confirmed that access to the grievance procedure will only be available for complaints that satisfy the “grievance test”.
The decision to remove the right to accompaniment is an outrage and we will be asking members to specifically register their protest to this arbitrary change.
The imposed changes will rightly be perceived as a further undermining of members working arrangements and a crude attempt to intimidate members and rush through unwelcome decisions.
Members are urged to ensure that they assert their rights and oppose any detrimental decisions.
In advance of the one to one meetings taking place HMRC guaranteed that affected staff would have enough information to make key decisions about whether they can reasonably move to a new office. They have said that “We’ll also be making sure that, ahead of the one-to-one meetings, everyone affected has a clear indication of where their team and line of business will be moving to, when that move will take place, and what this means for their own particular role, so both they and their managers have the full facts before they discuss their options.” As things stand there is precious little information available on any of this. No information has been made available to the trade unions on any of the individual business location plans for the offices included in this exercise.
Key concerns remain on how staff can sensibly discuss moves to offices that currently do not exist. We will continue to seek clarification from HMRC on this point.
We understand that announcements on proposed business locations will be made as late as the 25th February. If this is the case then members will need to ensure that they are fully acquainted with these in advance of attending any redeployment meeting.
Reasonable Daily Travelling
HMRC has sent out some contradictory messages on the subject of Reasonable Daily Travelling (RDT), particularly in respect of staff currently in London or potentially moving into a London office. Misleading information has been published and communicated particularly around the time of the 12 November 2015 announcements where statements were made that RDT in London was usually around 90 minutes – this was wrong and is not policy.
No arbitrary time should be applied to decide if a journey is inside or outside RDT.
The policy is clear in that what makes a journey reasonable is down to the circumstances of the individual member of staff. We would make the following points:
• RDT is usually around an hour each way; from home to work-place and back
• RDT can be less than an hour, or in London more than an hour, but dependant on individual circumstances
It is also sensible to take current journey times into consideration as a test of reasonableness. Members who will undertake a longer time travelling to a new location will want to carefully check that the journey to and from the office is reasonable and sustainable.
Members should exercise extreme caution when considering offering to travel beyond RDT. The reason for this is that if you formally agree to a journey time that is clearly beyond RDT then this will become a binding commitment to the employer and an agreed change to your working arrangements. Under the current policy there would need to be a substantive change in your circumstances for this commitment to be revisited.
Support for Members
PCS is clear that members will want appropriate support and guidance at this stressful time. This applies equally to job-holders faced with a move of location, line-managers conducting meetings and Decision Makers/Appeal Managers. PCS has made representations that the rush to conduct the meetings & the tight timescale put on the decision making process is in no-one’s best interest. We believe that this conversely increases the likelihood of challengeable decisions being made accompanied by the inevitable appeals; increasing the length of the process and the stress on all concerned. It is strange that the employer appears comfortable with this situation rather than placing more emphasis on ensuring correct decisions are made at the earliest opportunity.
PCS representatives are asked to familiarise themselves with the employer’s procedures, policies and instructions that relate to redeployment and office moves.
Further advice can be sought from your GEC Liaison Officer (GECLO), who in turn have access to members of the GEC negotiating team. PCS Full Time Officials have been allocated to each of the offices under threat of early closure to assist with organising and campaigning activity.
Advice for Members
PCS is publishing guidance for members who will have different roles in this process. Our general advice is that:
• Prior to attending the meeting members should seek advice from their PCS representative on their situation;
• Members should read the employer’s policy/instructions thoroughly and seek advice if they need clarification on any part of it;
• Prior to attending the meeting with the line manager, members should research the journey required to travel to the proposed new office. (Without being disparaging to HMRC’s new best friends at Google, you can obtain print-outs from other ‘whole journey’ planners such as Traveline or Transport for London);
• Managers conducting meetings are asked to view sympathetically any requests for accompaniment;
• Any attempts made to alter published guidance or impose unagreed criteria, such as standard criteria for RDT should be resisted and reported to PCS.
• Members who do not agree with a Decision Maker’s verdict should seek advice from their PCS representative, who will assist in any necessary appeal.
Further advice and guidance on raising Grievance Complaints will be issued shortly.
PCS believes that this ill-thought out rush to bully people through a process where their rights have been removed must be challenged. The PCS opposition to the “building our future” strategy is founded on our willingness to engage in debate and hold this unscrupulous employer to account.
HMRC’s failure to justify its position and the increasingly unreasonable behaviour of its senior leadership, calls into question their fitness for office.
PCS will be taking the case for a moratorium and proper scrutiny of this whole sorry farrago directly to parliament on the 1st March when your representatives will be meeting members of parliament. More than 100 MPs have responded to our invitation regarding the briefing session.
Please make sure that you contact your MP to ensure that they will be attending. You can do this by completing this E Action.
We will be highlighting the fact that the 2015 people survey, carried out before the scale of HMRC’s plans were revealed, showed that only 22% of staff believed that change was managed well in HMRC with 57% actively disagreeing. Their recent actions will serve to further alienate staff and damage the credibility of senior leaders as they seek to force staff to fit with their projections rather than admit that their plans risk the loss of experience and expertise that HMRC needs.
More detailed guidance on RDT and preparation for the meetings is available in the members briefing attached: