Jessica Fino 1 Feb 2019 04:53pm

HMRC commits to improving work environment

HMRC has committed to improve its workplace after an independent report found people at the Revenue experience “abusive” and “abrasive” behaviours

An independent report carried out by former John Lewis HR director Laura Whyte found that HMRC employees tolerate a significant amount of “low level” poor behaviour that would not be acceptable in other environments.

It listed “swearing, breaching confidentiality” and “ mocking colleagues” among the actions demonstrated.

Between 2016 and 2018 the Revenue received 294 complaints of bullying or harassment from staff members.

Despite the number of complaints made during this period, in any one year only 10 or fewer men and 10 or fewer women were investigated, a Guardian investigation into bullying and harassment in various government departments found.

It reported that at least 68 female staff made sexual harassment complaints.

The tax authority said today that it would be introducing all recommendations set out in the report with immediate effect, in a bid to close the gap between “the vision for the future and the current reality”.

Whyte said in her review that it became clear during her time interviewing HMRC staff that not everyone feels respected at work, and that she did not find any individual within HMRC who had confidence in the grievance process.

“Many of the people I heard from outlined that they lacked confidence in the process, and felt that there would never be a positive outcome for reporting unacceptable behaviour. This was disappointing and at odds with the ambitions set out in the HMRC values,” she added.

The review proposed HMRC use mediation more extensively to help address problems before they need to be taken through formal processes, and improve the experience of colleagues with a disability by making better adjustments and raising awareness of mental health conditions.

It also suggested investing time and resources into examining how peoples’ data is used and collected.

Sir Jonathan Thompson, chief executive at HMRC said, “I take seriously the scale of the challenge that HMRC has. As a result of the report, we will take forward immediate, fast-paced work to reform our policies and processes, make our data systems more robust, and most importantly communicate more clearly what behaviours we expect to see.

“It is for HMRC leaders to champion and take forward this work and for HR and other specialists to support – but we all have our part to play in responding to the Respect at Work report,” he added.