The civil service’s biggest union is calling on members who work at the Ministry of Justice to boycott this year’s cross-government people survey to highlight staff-engagement concerns at the department.
PCS’s call comes despite the agreement of a pay freeze-busting three-year deal that will see wages rise by an average oof 9.9% for departmental officials, in return for changes to their terms and conditions – including tweaks to working hours and overtime rates.
The Civil Service People Survey’s headline measure of staff sentiment is the so-called “employee engagement index”, which is created from responses to a handful of questions focused on how officials feel about their organisation. It includes questions about whether respondents feel motivated to help achieve the objectives of their department or agency, and whether they would recommend it to a friend.
Although the people survey asks staff scores of questions, the benchmark engagement-index score does not include responses related to questions concerning pay, workload, stress, inclusion, bullying or harassment.
The employee-engagement index has climbed every year since 2015 expressed as a pan-civil service score, bringing together results from more than 100 different organisations. Last year it hit an all-time high of 66%.
In the 2020 survey, the engagement-index figure for the MoJ’s “core group” was 61%, up from 59% the previous year. The score for HM Courts and Tribunals Service, which is part of the MoJ, was 56%. At HM Prison Service the engagement-index score was 59%.
Statistical data from last year showed that just 45% of civil servants in the MoJ’s “core group” completed the people survey. The average across the whole civil service was 80%. Only HM Prison Service and the Scottish Prison Service had lower completion rates than the MoJ core group – 23% and 29% respectively.
PCS said its call for MoJ staff to shun the 2021 poll followed a debate and the agreement of a specific motion at this year’s PCS MoJ group conference.
“It is the PCS view that the employer desires a high participation rate to demonstrate that staff engagement is high rather than addressing the issues and concerns highlighted by the survey responses,” it said.
“On that basis, we are asking members not to complete this year’s survey as a low completion rate forces the employer to accept that there are issues around staff engagement.”
The union also called on members at MoJ to lobby their non-member colleagues to also boycott the suvey.
An MoJ spokesperson said: “Staff engagement is determined by what our staff tell us, rather than the number who respond.
“The people survey is the largest annual review of its kind and a vital part of how we work to improve the lives of our dedicated staff.”