Hundreds of civil servants given redundancy packages under the revised Civil Service Compensation Scheme introduced last year could see their settlements improved following a High Court ruling.
Senior judges last month decided that the Cabinet Office acted unlawfully in introducing changes to the compensation scheme in November without consulting the Public and Commercial Services trade union as part of the adoption process.
A remedy ruling following the judicial review orders the Cabinet Office to pay the PCS and its co-claimants’ costs, and refuses the department the right of appeal.
Review judges Lord Justice Sales and Mrs Justice Whipple had ordered that the updated CSCS be quashed in July, but the Cabinet Office had sought a stay which has now been denied.
The PCS said that the decision opened the door to anyone with an exit package based on the revised 2016 scheme to claim compensation for having been left “thousands of pounds worse off” under the new terms.
Civil Service World understands that the hundreds of people would potentially be able to seek improvements to the terms they accepted since November. The Department of Health alone shed more than 400 full-time-equivalent posts in the first three months of this year, although it is not necessarily the case that the CSCS changes would have an impact on each of those roles.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the government had tried to fix the terms of the negotiations but had shown itself to be “weak, vulnerable, and afraid of serious discussion” in the process.
“This is a great win for us and all civil servants, and another humiliating defeat for the government that treated its workforce with contempt by excluding us from talks,” he said.
“The judgement proves how important it is to belong to a trade union that is prepared to fight back.”
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said that the High Court’s decision would not stop the department seeking to overturn the judgment.
“The government will make its appeal to the Court of Appeal as was always intended,” she said.
Proposals to change the CSCS were originally put out for consultation in February 2016 and initial rounds of talks were held with all unions to discuss the changes.
A senior Cabinet Office official subsequently wrote to civil service unions proposing a further round of talks and stating that attendance at these discussions would be “taken as a clear commitment” that government’s proposals would form the basis of new arrangements that unions would then recommend to their members.
In a bid to avoid more stringent terms being imposed, unions Prospect and the FDA took part in negotiations, but the PCS declined to take part because of the "commitment" that the pre-condition would entail. The High Court judgment said the situation amounted to exclusion.
In July’s judgement, Lord Justice Sales and Mrs Justice Whipple said it was “not surprising” that the unions were opposed to the proposals and unable to give such a commitment.
Last month both the FDA and Prospect expressed fears that the PCS’s High Court victory could result in the Cabinet Office looking to introduce a new compensation scheme that was even less favourable than the one introduced last year.