Thousands of civil servants are expected to rush to apply for voluntary redundancy ahead of imposed changes to their severance packages later this year.
The Cabinet Office has published proposed changes to the 1972 Superannuation Act aimed at reforming redundancy payments for 500,000 civil servants.
Ministers want to cap redundancy deals at a year’s salary for people made redundant and to 15 months for those who leave voluntarily.
Senior Whitehall sources told the Daily Telegraph they were expecting current redundancy schemes to be over-subscribed as officials who were eligible “rushed” for the exit.
Officials indicated the government was willing to increase the voluntary terms, possibly from 15 months to 18 months, to secure agreement with the unions without changing the law.
If legislation is introduced, it could be on the Statute Book by October or November, in advance of any job losses from the current spending review.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, accused the government of “acting outside the law”. A previous attempt to change the severance packages by the last government was ruled illegal by the High Court.
He said: “We will be studying the proposed legislation in detail, but our advice suggests the government might be repeating the mistakes of the previous administration in acting outside the law, simply to make it easier and cheaper to cuts tens of thousands of jobs.
“We fundamentally reject the need for these cuts and, as well as challenging them in parliament and the courts if necessary, we will pursue every avenue to oppose them in towns and cities across the UK.”