Civil service union PCS has slammed the Department for Work and Pensions for making redundancy offers to hundreds of staff while recruiting in other areas.
PCS said the DWP had offered redundancy packages to nearly 800 staff “when it is struggling to recruit staff, despite repeated claims that it would do everything it could to redeploy those at risk of losing their job”.
The union said it is "scandalous" that DWP is making staff redundant while struggling to recruit in areas that "are chronically under-resourced" such as personal independence payments, child maintenance, and retirement pensions.
The offers come in the wake of the DWP’s plans to shut more than 40 back-office sites. They are for members impacted by the initial set of office closures due at the end of this year, the union said. PCS said it believes many more staff will be made redundant by DWP next year, when the second tranche of offices close.
The union said DWP had accused it of “scaremongering” in March, when the closures were announced, adding “it is now clear that our honest appraisal of the impact of the office closures was correct”.
Then-employment minister Mims Davies told MPs in June that voluntary redundancy for staff affected by the shutdown of 43 sites was “the absolute last resort”.
She said more than 80% of colleagues had confirmed that they can move to a new site but acknowledged that at least 1,100 staff had indicated that they cannot move.
PCS said the department should have allowed staff who are unable to relocate to work from home to avoid redundancy.
“The department refuses to commit to this idea even though most of the members impacted by the office closures are already working from home three days a week,” the union said.
PCS also slammed DWP’s failure to assure staff that existing redundancy terms will be kept. In August, the government outlined its latest plans to slash redundancy terms.
“Even if members are tempted to accept the offer of redundancy, as the government has publicly stated its aim to cut redundancy compensation by up to a third, the department have been unwilling to give us the written assurance that the existing terms under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme will be honoured,” the union said.
“This creates further uncertainty for our members at a time of increasing financial vulnerability, as they face this life changing decision.”
DWP permanent secretary Peter Schofield said the department has been attending regular cross-government forums to “identify opportunities for colleagues at risk of redundancy” and has been working “proactively” with public bodies that have offices near the sites that are set to close.
Confirming this in a letter to Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier sent on 6 September, and published last week, Schofield added that the department has worked with 10 public bodies that have offered job opportunities with shortened application processes to help divert staff.
These are: the Home Office; HM Revenue and Customs; HM Courts and Tribunals Service; the Crown Prosecution Service; the Welsh Government; the Valuation Office Agency; Animal and Plant Health Agency; Submarine Delivery Agency; and Social Security Scotland in the Scottish Government.
He said DWP is also working with six other departments and agencies (the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; HM Prison and Probation Service; Insolvency Service; Companies House; GCHG; and Natural England) “to explore further redeployment opportunities”.
A DWP spokesperson said: “As part of plans to improve the services we deliver to claimants, help more people into employment and modernise public services, DWP is moving some back-office staff to better, greener offices, which will not affect any public-facing roles.
“We are making every effort to fully support and consult with our staff through this process and our priority is for staff to remain in the department where they can.”