In a trial designed to improve customer service levels during busier periods, HMRC is offering a selection of its staff a 27-hour work week over the summer, as well as a pay rise.

An HMRC pilot scheme to improve customer service levels will involve offering 100 staff members reduced working hours during the relatively quieter months in the summer. The customer service employees will then return to work for longer hours during the busier periods such as June and December.

Working the same number of contracted hours as they do presently, those members of staff that join the pilot will have their hours changed to 27 hours a week during the quieter parts of the year, to then increased to 44 hours during the other six months.

In order to further tempt staff to join the scheme, HMRC is also offering a 1% pay rise to participants, with the pilot aiming to start next year and last for 12 months.

When asked to comment, the tax authority looked to allay fears of a reduction in service, noting that “some media reporting of this trial has been misleading”.

A spokesperson for HMRC commented “Staff will still work the same number of hours over a year but they will do more when it’s busy,”

News of the pilot comes amid increased scrutiny of HMRC, which has faced growing criticism of its service levels in recent years, including being deemed “unacceptable” by the Public Accounts Committee.

A recent CIOT survey found that 94% of respondents were either “somewhat” or “extremely” dissatisfied with HMRC’s service levels, with agents criticising excessively long wait times on the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL), as well as issues with HMRC’s digital offerings as major factors.

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