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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Operational Guidance

Our Conduct and Behaviour: customer service to disabled people: introduction

The Equality Act was introduced in October 2010. It simplifies, strengthens and harmonises previous equality legislation to provide new anti-discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.

In practice this means you must make sure you comply fully with the requirements of the Equality Act when a person has a physical or mental impairment covered by the Act.

Following the introduction of the Equality Act we have reviewed the procedures and guidance for all front line staff so that they consider disability equality requirements in the delivery of all services to the public. This includes telephone checks, written checks and face to face meetings. That review has prompted changes to the compliance process, see COG11375.

The Equality Act prohibits discrimination and it is also good practice for HMRC to work in this way. By fostering good relations and providing a supportive environment we will make it easier for people to comply. We are also far more likely to be successful in changing the behaviour of those who do not comply.

Therefore, when dealing with customers you must

  • ensure you treat everyone with respect and do not harass, bully or unfairly discriminate against anyone in any way
  • do what is reasonable to provide an accessible service for everyone
  • make reasonable adjustments where required
  • explore practical ways of ensuring a person with any impairment is not disadvantaged.

You will need to pay particular attention to the person’s circumstances if they tell you that they are finding it difficult to

  • access any of our services
  • meet their obligations to notify chargeability
  • prepare and file a return on time
  • contact or arrange a meeting with you
  • answer your questions or
  • deal with you in some way without it causing them an unreasonable amount of distress or discomfort.

You must always consider the person’s individual requirements and make any reasonable adjustments they request to accommodate their circumstances.

For example, people with depression may have difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering things, so they may ask for longer appointments as it may take more time to explain or obtain information you need in order to complete your work.

Whatever the disability you should ask the person what help they need. See COG11320 for guidance on particular requirements.