Revenue and Customs: Remote Working

Treasury written question – answered on 4th May 2020.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for what reason HMRC is not rolling out telephony homeworking first to employees already working from home; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

HMRC’s frontline teams of key workers are doing a very important job to support the UK; protecting people’s livelihoods, keeping cash in businesses, helping people to stay employed and supporting families.

The safety of their staff is HMRC’s top priority. Staff who do not need to be in the office are working from home, and HMRC are following public health advice to keep their offices safe where services cannot be delivered from home.

HMRC took steps quickly to enable as many colleagues as possible to work from home at this time, expanding their remote working network, moving work around, and training hundreds of their customer advisers on webchat, which can be worked on from home. This means that about 75% of HMRC’s people are working at home.

Working telephony at home has been largely untested and presents potential risks that need to be managed carefully. In March, HMRC started a small-scale trial to look at this, and to understand in detail aspects like the experience and wellbeing of colleagues doing it, the customer experience, how secure and suitable home environments are for this type of work, and what extra equipment and network capacity would be needed.

HMRC’s original plan was to evaluate their initial small-scale trial of home telephony before looking at next steps. However, as HMRC prepared for a large surge in customer calls for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), HMRC decided that there was an opportunity to push the home telephony trial further and faster than planned. HMRC have now expanded the home telephony testing to about 7,000 colleagues, supporting CJRS and some of their business as usual lines.

The findings from this trial will help HMRC to understand how far they can increase the number of roles that can be done from home at any one time.

HMRC remain focused on and committed to keeping their people safe, whether in an office or at home, while also protecting their vital services to taxpayers.

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