Broken PMR system continues to deliver unequal outcomes

Inequality of PMR outcomes found at mid-year

Management’s analysis of the 2016-17 mid-year PMR markings shows the following inequalities:

  • Grade 6 staff and those aged under 40 were particularly likely to receive an exceptional marking
  • Black, Asian and disabled staff were particularly unlikely to receive an exceptional marking alongside those aged over 60 and those in the AO grade
  • Grade 6 staff and those aged between 30 and 39 were particularly unlikely to receive a development needed marking
  • Black and disabled staff were particularly likely to receive a development needed marking alongside those aged between 50 and 59 and those in the AO grade
  • These disparities are statistically significant on the distinct grounds of disability and age when it comes to both exceptional and development needed markings
  • They are also statistically significant on the grounds of ethnicity when it comes to exceptional markings

These outcomes and the discussions PCS has had with HR officials indicate that the latest diversity initiatives (which were introduced as part of this year’s mid-year review process and built on other diversity measures previously introduced to improve equality of outcomes) have only had a limited mitigating impact on the longstanding inequality problems that scar the PMR system.

Opting in and out

  • Only 10 BAME staff opted in to being specifically identified as such to the moderation meetings (out of 211 eligible staff who had recorded their ethnicity on PIMS)
  • 20 disabled staff opted out of the moderation process (out of 75 eligible staff who had recorded a disability on PIMS)

Diversity panel

  • 26 cases involving BAME and disabled staff who received a development needed marking were reviewed by the panel on an individual basis
  • 6 of these reviewed development needed markings were recommended to be changed to good as a result of there being little or no supporting evidence to justify the mark (and more such cases might have been picked up if relevant staff had been allowed to submit evidence)
  • Although the panel wanted to look at a great many more cases, they apparently ran out of time
  • The panel did not look at borderline cases (either development needed/good or good/exceptional) as had originally been intended
  • The panel will change how it operates so that a greater number of cases can be reviewed during the end of year process
  • The panel’s observation that the quality of mid-year write-ups “is very variable” within DCLG further undermines confidence in the fairness of the PMR system
  • Management decided not to review any reports of AO and older staff despite the year on year unfairness of box mark allocation to these groups. PCS will press management to include them as part of the end year review process

Performance related pay proposal must be abandoned

The senior management’s proposal to introduce PMR related bonuses from April 2017 is effectively a proposal to give less pay to BAME, disabled, older and lower grade staff.

A developmental approach to staff management should be adopted instead

DCLG’s onerous and very expensive PMR system is irredeemably flawed and in the interests of reporting officers, staff and the good use of public money, should be replaced with a forward looking approach which places the emphasis on building the skills and expertise of staff involved.

Urgent and radical reform needed in the meantime

In the meantime DCLG needs to:

  • Reduce the onerousness and cost of the current PMR system by ending mid-year and end-year moderation and the practice of senior managers further moderating the moderating meeting outcomes. Despite the efforts of many involved staff, moderation is correlated with year on year inequalities of outcome for very predictable groups of staff
  • Restore the responsibility of reporting officers.  Reporting officers are supposed to determine the box mark and moderating meetings are supposed to only have an advisory purpose
  • End ‘guided distribution’. Reinforced by the moderation process and the conveniently meaningless, but catch all mantra of ‘raising the bar’, guided distribution or quota according to one’s perspective, results in a powerful, downward, bureaucratic pressure on markings
  • Stop practices associated with stress, ill-health and unfair treatment of staff such as the direct, structured, and fast track route from development needed to PIP to poor performance dismissal procedures