Nearly 230 HM Revenue and Customs staff have been offered voluntary redundancy as the department’s hubs programme has closed offices across the country.
HMRC has opened formal consultation with unions after offering redundancy to 227 people whose offices are set to close, or who were covered by previous schemes.
The majority – 157 people – work at HMRC’s offices in Cumbernauld and Saxon House, Leicester, which will close next year. Those offered voluntary redundancy have been determined to be beyond reasonable daily travel of an alternative office.
A further 48 people have been offered exit packages across eight locations – Merry Hill and Wolverhampton’s Crown House in the Midlands; Bush House, International House and Euston Tower in London; Shipley and the Leeds Peter Bennett House in Yorkshire; and Ty Glas in Cardiff – who were covered by previous redundancy schemes. These 48 staff have had changes in their preventing them moving to another office.
Finally, 24 staff across three offices which are “coming up to closure” – City Centre House and Norfolk House in Birmingham, and Jubilee House in Stratford – have been offered voluntary redundancy after completing one-to-one discussions before this year.
The scheme comes after HMRC permanent secretary Jim Harra said last year that civil servants were being encouraged not to take redundancy packages.
The hubs programme, which will close many of HMRC's local premises and move operations to larger regional offices, means many staff will see their regular place of work move. Where this would mean a significantly longer commute or where staff cannot relocate, they must be offered redundancy.
But Harra told a committee of MPs in December that the Covid-19 pandemic had shown the closures need not force people to leave.
"We have been working hard to discourage colleagues from taking up the offer of redundancy [because] we can offer flexible ways of working which we hope will retain people," he said.
HMRC's terms and conditions overhaul earlier this year offered staff facing office changes options for flexible working, including full-time home working in some cases. A departmental spokesperson said this had enabled hundreds of staff to stay on.
However, it is ultimately up to staff to decide whether or not to take redundancy if they are offered it.
Harra said last year: “For the offices that we’re closing in the remainder of this year, we’ve been working hard with colleagues who’ve got that voluntary redundancy offer to encourage them to stay with us. But ultimately they’ve got the right to take the offer, if that’s what they want to do."
HMRC is consulting with civil service unions under the redundancy agreement and civil service protocols on redundancy mitigation, to enable the unions to raise any concerns about the arrangements.
An HMRC spokesperson said: “We launched a voluntary redundancy scheme on 24 June for HMRC colleagues based in some offices due to close during 2021-22.
"The scheme is open to colleagues who are unable travel to another HMRC office, where redeployment is not an option and with whom we’ve been unable to agree flexible working arrangements to help them stay with us.”