Changes to civil service redundancy pay deemed unlawful

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The ruling could open the way to legal challenges from civil servants who have been made redundant since the changes were introduced eight months ago.

The High Court has deemed controversial cuts to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme unlawful because the UK government failed to consult adequately with trade unions about it.

The ruling could open the way to legal challenges from civil servants who have been made redundant since the changes were introduced eight months ago. The current Scheme was first introduced in December 2010, but alterations were made by government ministers in November 2016 following a consultation.

Changes included lowering the tariff used for calculating payments from a month’s salary for every year worked to three weeks and cutting the cap for compulsory redundancy from 12 to nine months. The measures led to a fall in redundancy pay and reduced early access to pensions for thousands of public sector workers.

But a recent judicial review found the charges to be unlawful as the Cabinet Office had failed to consult with trade unions. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU) requested the review in February 2017 after it claimed to be “excluded from negotiations over changes to the scheme”.

It said that, after initial talks on the proposals in early 2016, a senior Cabinet Office official wrote to the Unions in the June to propose a further round. Their letter said: “I want to be clear that attendance at any further discussions will be taken as a clear commitment that those unions engaging in the talks have accepted that the proposal above will form the basis of a reformed, negotiated set of arrangements that their relevant executives can recommend acceptance to their members in any ballot.”

The PCSU, along with Unite and the Prison Officer’s Association, refused to agree to such conditions.

In court, the PCSU argued that former Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer failed in his legal duty “to consult with a view to reaching agreement” by excluding the union from more than a dozen meetings attended by most of the smaller ones.

The judgement handed down by Lord Justice Sales and Mrs Justice Whipple agreed that the minister was not entitled to exclude the PCSU from the consultation and dismissed the Cabinet Office’s claim that its inclusion would have made no difference to the eventual outcome.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the government intended to appeal.

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