Document will bring working conditions in line
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HM Revenue and Customs is to offer all employees the right to work from home two days a week.
The remote-working provision comes as part of a new standardised contract that brings certain working conditions in line for all the tax agency’s 64,000 full-time staff.
Although 90% of HMRC staff worked from home during the first national lockdown last year, the 10% that continued to go into the department’s offices was one of the highest proportions of non-remote workers across government – exceeded only by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Later in the year, as it pressed ahead with plans to consolidate its number of locations and reduce its workforce, HMRC indicated that it was assessing how it might enable remote working in the longer term.
“We are reviewing whether there are some longer-term opportunities to work more flexibly in future, including in some cases the opportunity to work from home on a permanent basis,” the department said, in June 2020.
The right to work remotely at least 40% of the time will now be contractually enshrined.
Other terms set out in the standardised contract include a 37-hour working week and 25 days of annual leave at the start of employment – rising incrementally through length of service to a maximum of 30.
After a year in which HMRC’s customer-service has frequently lagged performance targets, the new contact will also require staff in these roles to work one evening shift per week and six Saturdays each year.
In an exclusive interview with PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, HMRC chief executive Jim Harra admitted that recent recruits will likely be the biggest beneficiaries of the contract, while longer-serving staff might experience “personal disadvantages” that may include a reduction in annual leave or changed working patterns.
“But it is important that we’re able to do that for two reasons,” he added. “One, to give the customer service that we want, but also to be fair between all colleagues. Some colleagues are probably having to do more evening and weekend shifts at the moment than they’re going to end up doing because others are doing fewer. So, to achieve that fairness, it does mean that some people are going to experience some change that they may not personally welcome.”
Alongside the standardised contract, HMRC is also giving staff across civil-service grades AA to G6 a pay rise of 3% this year, on average, followed by increases of 5% in each of the next two years.