More than 1,000 HMRC staff at risk of losing annual leave over managerial bungle

PCS says the department is punishing staff for the mistakes of bosses
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By Tevye Markson

30 Nov 2023

More than 1,000 HM Revenue and Customs officials are at risk of losing annual leave because of mistakes made by managers.

HMRC is retrospectively revoking annual leave carryover approved by managers, above the department-standard 10 days, in cases where managers used the wrong code to authorise requests.

PCS, the civil service’s biggest union, said the department is punishing officials for their managers' actions.

Some managers in HMRC have allowed staff to carry annual leave over to the next year using a code on the HR system which should only be used in the Valuation Office Agency.

On 23 November, HMRC wrote to those managers, instructing them to urgently speak to the staff whose carryover request they incorrectly authorised, to tell them that any carryover of annual leave beyond the normal 10 days will be revoked by the department in December.

Under HMRC’s policy, requests to carry over in excess of 10 days annual leave can be granted under specific circumstances, including as a result of sickness absence, family leave, reservist mobilisation, TUPE/COSOP protection or parental bereavement leave.

There are specific codes on the department’s HR system for granting excess carryover requests under these circumstances. However, some managers have been granting these requests using an alternative code that is not intended for use in HMRC.

The department’s executive committee has decided to revoke any excess carryover in all cases not covered by the department’s policy. This means that any member of staff who has had an excess carryover of annual leave will have the reason for the carryover re-examined, and if the reason for the excess carryover is not covered by policy, then any carryover beyond 10 days will be lost.

PCS said HMRC “is planning to punish members of staff for the actions of their managers”.

“The affected staff made the carryover request in good faith and have the right to expect any granted carryover to be honoured,” the union said. 

“If the department does not want HMRC managers using a feature of the IT system, then do not make that feature of the system available to them,” it added.

The union also questioned whether HMRC had given adequate support to managers. It said HMRC had insisted managers were given ample signposting to the policy and guidance, but as of 20 November, the number of views for HMRC's policy document HR2091, which sets out the excess leave carryover policy, totalled only 172 in five months. 

PCS said the number was “very low” given that there are tens of thousands of management grades in HMRC and argued this “should have set alarm bells ringing for HMRC, where understanding of the policy is concerned”.

The union said HMRC has also “failed to recognise the possibly irreparable damage to the relationship between affected members of staff and their managers”. 

An HMRC spokesperson said: “Colleagues can only carry forward a maximum of 10 days (pro-rata for part time colleagues) at the end of the leave year, unless a specific exception applies and is approved by their manager. 

“This position is clearly set out in policy guidance and extensive communications throughout the past year, including in regular bulletins that go directly to HMRC people managers.”

HMRC has provided an opportunity for officials to discuss their individual circumstances to ensure that where genuine mistakes have been made they can be rectified and colleagues can retain excess carry-forward leave, CSW understands.

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