Morale is at an ‘all-time’ low at HM Passport Offices, amid allegations of bullying, poor wellbeing and staff feeling too afraid to raise their concerns, according to a Labour MP.
In a letter to home secretary Priti Patel and immigration minister Kevin Foster, Mary Kelly Foy said passport office employees were “emotionally and physically drained” and were “scared to speak out for fear of disciplinary action”.
The letter says: “This isn’t solely about people missing out on holidays and seeing loved ones anymore, this is about avoiding the possible tragedy of workers suffering extreme and lengthy mental distress or worse still, contemplating taking their own lives.
“A toxic working culture has been allowed to emerge at HMPO. It is the role of senior figures in any organisation to provide effective leadership and set high standards through their own behaviour.”
The letter includes testimonies Foy had received from HM Passport Office employees in her Durham constituency. Staff claimed the current backlog in passport applications was down to poor management and organisation, as well as poorly trained workers and disfunctional IT systems.
Wellbeing and culture
One said: “I am on the brink of suicide due to the duty of care this office has shown to me and others…no passport officer can take this level of bullying and abuse and continue to be productive.”
Another said: “We have senior management who have never examined a passport before and think it’s ok to offer training that isn’t suitable.”
The letter asks about the process for a staff member to refer themselves for mental or emotional wellbeing support, and how many such requests had been received since the pandemic began.
It also seeks clarity on how many additional workers have been recruited to assist with the application backlog since a promise of an additional 1,700 staff was made to the PCS Union in 2021.
A HM Passport Office spokesperson said: “The wellbeing of our staff is paramount, which is why we encourage staff to raise any concerns with workload or conditions immediately.
“We are thankful to all our staff who are working tirelessly to process 250,000 applications a week, with 98.5% of applications completed within 10 weeks.”
Staff numbers have increased by 850 since April 2021 HMPO is in the process of recruiting another 350.