HMRC to allow staff to work from home at least two days a week - despite government push to return to office

Nearly 64,000 staff at HM Revenue and Customs will be able to work from home at least two days a week permanently from next month – despite government aims to get workers back into offices.

The tax authority confirmed its new flexible working policy will come into effect on June 1, allowing its 63,570 staff to work remotely for part of the week after pandemic restrictions lift.

The changes are being made as part of a wider overhaul at HMRC to address what boss Jim Harra described as a “crisis” of pay and working conditions.

HMRC chief executive Jim Harra appeared before MPs on Thursday. Credit: PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted earlier this month that the government’s work from home advice is set to be dropped on June 21, telling MPs that UK cities depend on “people having the confidence of going to work”.

But HMRC said it wanted to “recognise the benefits of smarter ways of working” in its new pay and working reforms.

In response to a freedom of information (FOI) request by the PA news agency, HMRC said: “Where the role is suitable, employees will have the opportunity (though not a contractual entitlement) to work from home for two days per week, or more where the business agrees.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

It added it was “committed to supporting as many employees as possible to work from home where this works for their personal circumstances and the role they do”.

As well as offering permanent flexible working, HMRC is hiking pay and standardising contracts, while it is slashing its network of around 170 offices to 13 regional centres, five specialist sites and a head office in London.

The reforms were given the green light by trade unions earlier this year, but HMRC said final details of the flexible working policies are still being thrashed out.

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The Bank of England recently confirmed it was trialling ways to allow its 4,475 staff to work from home in response to the pandemic.

The Bank said it was reviewing its flexible working policy “as we move into a hybrid way of working, following Covid-19 restrictions being lifted” and was set to test changes among its workforce.

Responding to an FOI from PA, the Bank said: “Like many other organisations we are considering the right balance of time spent working from the office and working remotely to maximise the Bank’s ability to deliver its mission.”

A raft of firms in the private sector are backing hybrid working models as the country emerges from the coronavirus crisis.

Corporate giants including British Gas owner Centrica, outsourcer Capita and lenders Santander and NatWest Group have confirmed they will move their workforces to a combination of office and remote working.