Dealing with complaints: Complaints about misconduct (including serious misconduct and criminality)
While allegations from customers concerning the conduct of HMRC staff fall to be handled as complaints, there are additional considerations that you need to be aware of. This is because it will be appropriate in certain cases for HMRC’s disciplinary procedures to come into play, so you need to understand who has responsibility for what when the situation arises. HR have produced detailed guidance on when the disciplinary procedures need to be followed and the role of managers and senior managers.
Additionally, since 1 April 2006, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has performed a guardianship role over any complaints made by external customers about the alleged serious misconduct and criminality of HMRC staff, in respect of incidents occurring in England or Wales. All of HMRC’s dealings with IPCC go through Internal Governance (IG) but you should be aware of what you have to do if you receive a complaint alleging serious misconduct or criminality by one or more HMRC employees, which includes everyone up to and including the Chief Executive. (Note: IPCC’s remit only covers events from 1 April 2006 and they only have jurisdiction in England and Wales. At present, we do not have any external scrutiny arrangements for Scotland and Northern Ireland.) HR’s intranet site includes details of how, when and where to contact them. It also gives examples of what is meant by the terms Minor Misconduct, Formal Misconduct, and Formal Gross Misconduct, and sets out who has to do what in each case.
Bear in mind that both the HR and IG guidance relate to the investigation of a potential disciplinary matter. The aim of such an investigation is to determine whether the alleged misconduct is founded and to consider potential disciplinary action against the officer concerned. These are not considerations appropriate to the complaints team.
By contrast, it is the role of the complaints team to treat and deal with the matter as a complaint and to follow normal complaints policy and procedures. As with any other complaint, you will determine whether the complaint is justified, consider the appropriate remedy, and communicate this to the complainant.
Often, an allegation of misconduct will form only part of a wider complaint, but it is still necessary to follow the HR guidance in respect of the misconduct aspect. Clearly, whether or not the allegation of misconduct is the only aspect of the complaint, it is vital that the manager(s) involved in the HR and/or IG procedures, and the designated complaints handler(s), liaise closely from the outset to ensure a common understanding of their respective roles and work together to meet relevant deadlines.