HMRC issue report showing how it complied with its public-sector equality duties

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are a public sector organisation, which, under the Equality Act 2010, means they have specific duties towards disabled people. Read on to find out more.

Public sector Equality Duty

The public sector Equality Duty contained in s149 of the Equality Act 2010, means that public bodies have to consider all individuals when carrying out their day-to-day work – in shaping policy, in delivering services and in relation to their own employees.

Specifically, it requires that public bodies have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination
  • advance equality of opportunity
  • foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities

Advancing equality of opportunity means public bodies have to:

  • remove or minimise disadvantages for groups of people
  • take steps to meet the needs of protected groups of people (which can included disabled people)
  • encourage all groups of people to participate in public life or other activity in situations where their participation is low

Public bodies are required to publish relevant, proportionate information showing compliance with the Equality Duty, and to set equality objectives. HMRC have recently released a report showing how they complied with the public-sector equality duty in the period 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017.

They set their equality objectives in 2016 and we look at them in our news piece 'HMRC release updated equality objectives'.

What HMRC say

In the section ‘how our customer service and policy work complies with section 149 of the Equality Act’ they say:

‘The Customer Equalities team in HMRC has continued to work with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders, helping the department to comply with equality law, provide the best possible service for people in protected equality groups, and drive forward improvements in customer service.

We also run a biannual Disabled Customers Consultation Group with a number of external stakeholder groups and host a Mental Health Forum to discuss and address issues faced by customers with mental health conditions.

We monitor customer complaints involving the protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act, and use the analysis and information to improve customer service. For example, we identified a trend of complaints involving deaf customers, and issues identified were confirmed by our external stakeholders.

We worked with the Royal Association for the Deaf (RAD) to produce videos with British Sign Language (BSL) and subtitling, for HMRC’s YouTube channel.

We have been developing our staff training programme, as part of a strategic approach to raising awareness of customer equality policy, among policy makers and customer-facing staff.

As an example, we have delivered a number of training sessions covering legislative requirements, Equality Impact Assessments and reasonable adjustments that should be offered to customers who need extra support. We plan to continue developing this work in 2017 to 2018.

Since the launch of our internal Customer Zone intranet site last year, we have continued to build on the content, adding further guidance around extra support for customers and how we meet our obligations in Your Charter. We developed a new page and guidance to support staff dealing with vulnerable customers, including those with mental health conditions.

Our equality objectives for 2016 to 2020 reflect our immediate and longer term priorities around customer understanding, digital services and customer service.

HMRC’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2016 to 2020, is built around 4 themes: representation, inclusion, capability and customers. It guides the work we do to help maximise the performance of all our people, and, in doing so, enables us to respond more effectively to the needs of our diverse customer base.'

What do you think?

Despite all this, 26 per cent of the complaints the Adjudicator dealt with in the last year were from people who consider themselves disabled, which suggests that people who have disabilities and additional needs may not be adequately catered for by HMRC.

If you have specific examples of where you do not think HMRC are handling the needs of people with disabilities well, we would be pleased to hear them so we can put them forward to HMRC (LITRG engages reasonably regularly with HMRC on disability matters, through HMRC’s ‘Disabled Customer Consultation Group’). 

Please therefore feel free to get in touch to share any experiences that you are willing for us to mention to HMRC in anonymised form. (To be effective, it is helpful if such examples can be as specific as possible, otherwise, it can be difficult to get HMRC to take up issues as ‘problems’ if we are just making general points.)