HM Revenue & Customs is this month set to issue compulsory redundancy notices to the majority of the 200 staff whose jobs it warned were at risk last year, Civil Service World understands.
The tax authority opened a 90-day consultation on the future of around 200 officials in August, with the roles at risk understood to be mainly at administrative level. At the time, HMRC promised to “avoid the need for compulsory redundancies” where possible.
That 90-day period has now elapsed, while a six-week “period of reflection” — during which time union representatives met senior officials to discuss whether enough has reasonably been done to avoid compulsory job losses — has also come to an end.
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While some officials have opted to take voluntary redundancy and others are set be redeployed, many are now expected to be issued with compulsory redundancy notices in mid-February.
The Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union has said that 152 staff are now facing compulsory redundancy, and has said it is "outraged" at the way the tax authority has handled the process. Another source familiar with the situation put the total number of staff "on the route" to compulsory redundancy at over 170, although a spokesperson for HMRC declined to comment when asked on Monday about the numbers affected or whether a formal announcement was forthcoming.
The spokesperson said: "HMRC always seeks to avoid compulsory redundancies. Any significant announcements would rightly be made directly to the individuals concerned first, so we won’t be commenting further at this stage."
It is understood that the department will continue to make efforts to redeploy those facing compulsory redundancy during their consultation periods.
CSW has seen correspondence between PCS officials and HMRC’s Dame Lin Homer, in which the organisation’s chief executive says the tax authority has “considered every reasonable option to avoid redundancy”, with “ongoing redeployment activity to try to find alternative roles” for those affected “since 2013”.
She adds: “We have followed a robust and transparent approach in accordance with the 2008 Cabinet Office Protocol for handling staff surpluses and the approach taken by HMRC has been scrutinised independently by [Civil Service Resourcing] CSR.
“HMRC has communicated clearly throughout the process and when our people at risk were offered voluntary redundancy they were advised that redeployment opportunities will be very limited and compulsory redundancy would be the next step. In addition to this most were offered a voluntary exit and all have been offered voluntary redundancy terms since that time. The vast majority have also been able to attend a Career Transition workshop.”
But PCS has accused HMRC of failing to properly consult on the future of affected staff, and says "redundancy avoidance measures have not been properly applied".
The move follows November’s announcement by HMRC that it is to close the vast majority of 170 regional offices in favour of moving to 13 larger regional centres over the next decade. The tax authority has said it expects the “overwhelming majority” of existing staff to move into the new centres, but has not ruled out further job losses.
In a statement, the union said: “At a time when thousands of jobs are being advertised by HMRC it is incredible that the employer should consider imposing compulsory redundancies. We are outraged that the employer has ruled out obvious redundancy avoidance options, such as moving work to offices where members are under threat.
"We do not agree that work and staff cannot be transferred to offices facing closure at some time in the future, as under the recently announced office closure programme, every office is earmarked to close and transfer work to the 13 regional hubs.
"We also believe that although the voluntary redundancy option was offered to staff when first declared surplus over a year ago, the radically changed situation created by the office closures announcement means that option must now be re-opened. We have made this case to the employer and the Cabinet Office agreed that a further voluntary severance exercise is open to the department — yet HMRC still refuse to consider this option."
A January meeting of the union’s HMRC grouping is understood to have called for "all possible avenues" to be explored in the event of compulsory redundancies, raising the prospect of a ballot of members on industrial action if the department presses ahead with its plans.
HMRC's headcount has fallen substantially in the past decade, from 96,000 in 2005 to under 60,000 by 2014. The number of full-time equivalents working for the tax authority is set to fall further to 52,000 by April 2016, according to the department's change plan.
Last week, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced that around 250 of its own staff were at risk following the department's decision to close its Sheffield office as part of a wider restructuring programme.