HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

HMRC and The Internet

Acas have published a report (Workplaces and Social Networking) about HMRC's online and social media strategy.

It looked at how BT and HRMC tackles the issues relating to the net, and what staff may/may not do during work time. Interviews were carried out with an HMRC HR adviser, the head of HMRC’s digital strategy and a trade union representative involved in data security issues in May 2011. Oddly enough though no "ordinary" members of staff were interviewed.

Here are a few extracts relating to HMRC:

"Only around 50% of employees at HMRC currently have internet access, although this is about to change, as the organisation is in the process of rolling out internet access to all employees as part of the process of centralising the HR functions of civil service departments. 

HMRC also has a policy on acceptable use of the internet, which, as with the BT policy, blocks certain websites. 

HMRC employees are not prohibited from using the internet, but the policy states that they should do this in their own time, i.e. during breaks. HMRC, as an organisation that holds a large amount of sensitive data about the population, needs to have extremely tight data security procedures in place, and from this perspective, it feels that it needs to control the types of sites that employees can access from the organisation’s IT system.

HMRC said that it did not consider employees’ social media profiles during 

HMRC has a forum in place, where employees can write about issues that are bothering them.and employees are permitted to post comments on it during work time. The organisation keeps an eye on the threads and will respond with explanation or clarification where it deems necessary.

HMRC is still developing its digital engagement strategy and will decide on the precise details at some point in the future. The priority for the organisation at this stage was to put into place guidance for social networking sites that is clear and understandable to employees.

The fact that internet access was being rolled out to all employees was a catalyst for developing guidance on the use of social networking sites, and the issue was further brought to prominence by a couple of high-profile incidents picked up by the media of HMRC employees using social networking sites.

'We had concerns within HR about social media and how staff were using it. We’ve had misconduct cases involving social media, although we’ve handled it quite well. We decided in HR that we needed to do something.'

HMRC, the policy was developed in conjunction with the trade unions. In addition, before the policy was finalised, it was posted up internally in bulletin boards for employees to see and comment upon.

HMRC feels that this is the right way to go about policy formulation, as it will help to ensure that employees can have an input into the policy, which in turn will increase overall acceptance and awareness. 

HRMC obtained useful feedback from this exercise, particularly on the structure and phrasing/language used. 

HMRC also carried out an internal survey to check employees’ knowledge about social networking sites, in order to help it to pitch the guidance correctly.

'Essentially, what we did was to bring existing Conduct policies together. The only thing that was new was a policy to discourage people from associating HMRC privately with their social media – better not to do it.

The rest of it was essentially conduct, communication and security policy. Essentially, we’re saying that you should behave online as you do offline. We’ve just reminded people about existing policy and looked at it in the light of social media.'

HMRC does not give any specific training to line managers on how they should handle these
issues, largely because most of the issues that are likely to arise would come under the organisation’s conduct policy, on which managers do receive training.

'Managers can’t be expected to know everything about everything, but I would hope that if there was a problem to do with social networking, the manager would look into what this meant. The issue would basically be to do with the disciplinary code.' Trade union representative, HMRC

HMRC does not look at the Facebook or other social networking sites of its employees as a matter of course (Ken says "errmm it looks at this one though;)"), as it does not want to prescribe how employees should behave in their private life. For the organisation, the main and overarching
issue is that employees do not behave in such a way as to bring the organisation into disrepute. Its guidance recommends that employees do not disclose their status as an HMRC employee on any social media site and that they should be careful about disclosing information about their colleagues. HMRC initially thought about specifying personal sites in their guidance, but after discussions with trade unions, decided not to.

'When we were drawing up our guidance, we thought about including general good practice on the use of private personal sites. It’s quite easy to stray into being prescriptive. However, trade unions had a different point of view and it’s of value to have different views around to get an appropriate balance.' HR adviser, HMRC

'You have to start from a position of trust – people need to be trusted not to be stupid with it. We felt very strongly that HMRC couldn’t dictate to employees what they did in their private lives. There has to be that glass wall between the two. Equally, however, it would be wrong for an employee to put privileged information on their Facebook site. We have access to private data in our jobs and we have to respect that when on our social networking sites.'

'If a person rang in sick and then changed their status on Facebook to at Alton Towers, that would obviously be an issue, but we haven’t seen anything like that. Trade union representative, HMRC"

My question to my loyal readers (specifically HMRC staff) is simple, does this reflect reality?

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  1. The Internet, friend or foe?

    Depends on your point of view.

    If you don't like hearing (seeing) it as it is i.e. the truth, you are likely to view it as a foe.

    There cannot be many who do not realise how easy it is to monitor e.mails, hotmail and social websites. However as long as you are telling the truth I think the phrase is "See you in court Motherfeckers!" and if that ends up being the European Court under ECHR so much the better, it won't be before time!

    As for employees bringing them into disrepute, that's rich considering how much disrepute has been created from the top down as this site has shown so clearly.

    As far as conduct applies, it seems the further up the greasy pole you climb the less that anything counts.

    Back to basics, if things were not so bad then this site and others would be defunct or at least reduced in scope.

    Someone stated a while ago that the truth was flowing faster, sure is!

  2. I'm not allowed to have HMRC listed as my employer on FB, etc. TBH would be too embarrassed to list it.

    Oh and they do check your FB, i'm living proof. I was seriously berated for being out of the UK when they hadnt recorded my annual leave correctly.

  3. Trust is like respect and to be sustained has first and foremost to be earned.

    Without either it is impossible to build and maintain a cohesive workforce.

    The answers might include going back to basics and core functions dropping the snake oil salesmen and women and from top down setting an example to all your customers.

    Good luck!

  4. It's not likely to make much difference, given that HMRC's workstations are not only running Internet Explorer 6, but a crippled version of it.

    It won't be long before we'll hardly be able to use any external sites anyway.

    (Verification word for this post was "ylousyc" - I can guess what the first 'y' and the 'c' stand for!)

  5. i admit who my employer is/was on 'a need to know' basis. in other words i'm too embarssed to tell most people. 'retired' now, is monitored and scaremongering and 'we're watching everything you do' threats by people who can't work out how to send an email. ( i kid you not)