Thousands of HMRC staff are continuing to work remotely despite productivity concerns, with some even not going into the office at all, according to new figures.
With a number of employers beginning to reintroduce policies to get their employees back into the office, teams at HMRC remain seemingly untouched, with around 40% not attending the office just once a week in some regional centres during the last financial year.
This is despite the tax authority being under clear pressure with customer service performance levels, according to its latest set of performance statistics.
For example, taxpayers waited an average of 21 minutes to have their calls answered in July 2023, compared to a little over six minutes in July 2019.
These challenges have led to measures being taken such as closing the self-assessment helpline over the sum to try and provide some temporary capacity.
Similarly, the number of complaints received in the four months to July 2019 was 22,373, and for the same four months to July 2023, the figure stands at 35,353.
Back in July, the tax office said the decision to pilot a seasonal telephone model for SA was taken based on the need to improve overall customer service levels.
This was ultimately scrutinised by the Treasury Committee, which stated that HMRC had failed to address MPs’ concerns about the abrupt nature of the closure announcement, which gave taxpayers less than a week’s notice.
The closure saw around 350 staff transferred to other helplines to support more urgent queries during the three-month trial period.
HMRC was adamant that it was due to ‘low demand over the summer’ but did not rule out the possibility that it could become more permanent.
An HMRC spokesperson said: ‘There is no link between our customer service performance and working from home. All our staff are held to the same standards whether they are working from an HMRC building or home.’
Currently, it is unclear whether there have been or will be any formal changes to HMRC’s official hybrid working policy, which was signed off in May 2020.
Data from a freedom of information request highlight the average number of HMRC staff working in a regional centre at least once a week during the year to 31 March 2023.
Newcastle Upon Tyne had the highest average number of people, standing at 5,700. This was followed by Stratford at 3,200 and Nottingham at 2,800.
The regional centre with the lowest average was found in Portsmouth, with only 700 workers.