PSA taking Inland Revenue to court over unnecessary psychometric testing
09 Oct 2017
The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan.
"There are so many absurd and wasteful components to this process that it’s hard to pin down which parts of this restructure are most offensive," says Erin Polaczuk, PSA national secretary.
"First of all, many of these workers have been with IR for many years - some for more than two decades - and they are now being coerced into taking psychometric tests that are pseudoscientific and subjective just so they can reapply to keep their jobs with IR."
"Often these ‘new’ jobs involve the same work the employees have been doing for many years."
"If you wanted to get a good sense of a person’s skills and abilities, it would be more rational to consider the ample information stored within the department from years of performance reviews and evaluations."
"Secondly, we’re concerned that psychometric testing is being used as a kind of Trojan horse to make whatever unilateral and arbitrary staffing decisions that senior managers want, hiding behind the guise of psychometric testing as grounds."
"Not to mention that it’s offensive to long-serving staff - who are experts in tax regulation and compliance - and may breach both the department’s Tiriti o Waitangi obligations and its compliance with the State Sector and the Human Rights Acts."
Originally, Inland Revenue had made psychometric testing compulsory for all employees, saying that if staff did not agree to the test they would not be considered for a role. Following the PSA’s advocacy for concerned staff, the department decided to call the testing ‘optional’, though it also cautioned in a letter to employees last week that non-participation "may mean that we have insufficient information that we can rely on to be satisfied of your capability to perform these new roles."
"Beyond the waste of time and the dubious value of this kind of testing, there’s also the issue of cost, which will be significant. The testing software is proprietary and expensive, and it’s not clear how much taxpayer money will be wasted on it," says Ms Polaczuk.
Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation restructure aims to modernise and simplify the tax system, but it is being carried out at the same time as a vast redesign of its computer systems. The PSA considers this a risky concurrence, and has concerns about the integrity of New Zealand’s tax system under these cumulative pressures.
"We asked for this case to be removed from the Employment Relations Authority to the Court and to be heard under urgency, and this request was granted," says Ms Polaczuk.
"It’s deeply unfortunate that Inland Revenue’s senior managers wouldn’t resolve this in good faith with the PSA and listen to the voices of its members. We are disappointed with IR’s decision to use this testing and with its approach."
"So we’re heading to Court on behalf of our members, and will be awaiting a verdict on whether this testing is unlawful as well as unwise."