FDA: Ministers must not "expect the impossible" from Home Office staff on Brexit

29th November 2017

Ministers must provide urgent clarity on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system to avoid placing “unrealistic expectations” on already-stretched staff, the FDA union has warned.
 
MPs on the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee are currently holding an inquiry into the way the Home Office is readying itself for the UK’s departure from the European Union in 2019.
 
In the committee’s latest evidence session, FDA National Officer Helen Kenny - who represents senior managers and professionals in the Home Office - highlighted significant pressures in the organisation, which has reduced its headcount by more than 1,000 since 2010.
 
Pointing to the FDA’s latest Working Hours Survey, Ms Kenny noted that almost three-quarters of the union’s members in the Home Office believe working excessive hours is already a problem in their organisation.

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She added: “Over 60% say that they’ve worked while on sick leave or annual leave, and most of them feel that that’s not going to change, that nothing is being done about the workload. So the issue isn’t necessarily vacancies. It’s – having cut the workforce – the amount of additional pressure on people who have remained.”
 
A key issue facing Home Office staff in the months ahead will be the registration of the three million EU nationals currently in Britain. While Ms Kenny said work on the registration system was already well underway, she pointed out that this could not be finalised until the outcome of Brexit negotiations is clear.
 
Ms Kenny told the Committee that there was a “frustration” among FDA members in the Home Office at the length of time taken to fill vacancies, with the organisation’s security clearance procedures meaning that it can take up to nine months to fill key posts with external recruits.
 
The FDA National Officer said: “The biggest concern, the biggest problem, is the lack of clarity – not knowing what things will look like the day after we leave the European Union. The closer we get to that date the more likely it is that Home Office will not have the time or the resources or the ability to put the relevant processes in place.
 
“There’s a real concern that the Government will expect the impossible [and] that unrealistic expectation of how quickly a system can be put in place is causing real concern for our members.”
 
The Committee also heard from representatives of the Public and Commercial Services Union, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association and the Immigration Service Union (ISU).
 
Lucy Morton, General Secretary of the ISU, praised the “dedication and commitment” of immigration staff, but warned that “being able to recruit an adequate number and also being able to retain” was becoming a “serious problem”.
 
“These are expensive staff to train, whether you’re looking at the borders, at the enforcement stage, or at UK Visas and Immigration in caseworking. We need to retain that expertise and that really is becoming a struggle.”
 
The FDA’s 2017 Pay Survey showed that 67% of Home Office respondents were aware of recruitment and retention difficulties in their organisation, with 83% saying they were either ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with pay arrangements in the organisation.

Meanwhile, 87% of respondents at the Home Office told the FDA that they did not believe their organisation was properly resourced for the year ahead.

The union is currently campaigning for a fair and fully-funded pay rise for all public sector staff. To find out more about the FDA's campaign, click here.