Civil servants could spend as little as TWO DAYS a week in the office under ‘flexible WFH’ – despite Rishi Sunak and ministers warning other workers it could harm their careers and they have a ‘duty’ to go back to workplaces
- Civil servants could spend as little as two days a week in offices in Whitehall
- Departments are coming up with their own approaches to flexible working
- One model would see staff split time 30 per cent in office and 70 per cent WFH
- Comes despite Rishi Sunak warning being in office can boost career progression
Civil servants could spend as little as two days a week in their offices in Whitehall under plans to make flexible working the ‘new normal’.
Government departments have been told to come up with their own approaches to getting staff back into offices.
One model under consideration would see officials split their time ’30/70′ with 30 per cent of the week in the office and 70 per cent working from home.
It comes despite Rishi Sunak warning that being physically present in an office can help young people boost their careers and amid lingering fears over the fates of town and city centres if workers do not return.
Tory MPs have urged the Government to toughen its stance on the return of workers, arguing there is ‘every good reason for people being back in the office’.
Civil servants could spend as little as two days a week in offices in Whitehall under plans to make flexible working the ‘new normal’. An empty Whitehall is pictured on July 30 during the morning rush hour
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that being around colleagues at the start of a career is ‘really beneficial’
The vast majority of civil servants would not return full-time to Whitehall under the flexible working plans, according to The Times.
It is thought the Cabinet Office will issue guidance to departments containing an assessment of how much time people in certain jobs should spend in the office.
Staff in policy roles are likely to be able to work from home for the majority of the time while those in operational roles are more likely to have to be physically present.
The Government’s approach to the return of workers this year is in marked contrast to last summer when there was a forceful drive to get staff back to Whitehall after coronavirus case numbers plummeted before a subsequent U-turn.
The Government has now formally ditched its advice to work from home but it is not actively encouraging staff to return, insisting it is a decision for employers and employees.
Civil servants told The Times that there had been ‘no pressure to go in’ from their bosses while union chiefs said ministers appeared to have ‘learnt their lesson’.
It is thought the ‘new normal’ arrangements on flexible working will be rolled out by the end of September.
There are growing concerns among Tory MPs over the long term sustainability of struggling town and city centres if many staff do not go back to their pre-pandemic commutes.
One senior Tory MP told MailOnline that the Government should be telling staff to return to offices, arguing there are career, health and economic benefits to going back.
‘There is every good reason for people being back in the office and the Government should be telling people to go back to work,’ they said.
Pointing to the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout, they added: ‘We don’t appear to be capitalising on that by getting back to normal life more quickly. We do need to start seeing our cities returning to life again.’
Another Conservative MP said the civil service’s approach is ‘bizarre’ and they believe it would make sense for people to be ‘more in than not’.
Education Minister Gillian Keegan yesterday revealed that as few as one in five civil servants in her department had returned.
Asked how many civil servants had returned to the Department for Education, Ms Keegan told Times Radio: ‘I would say probably 20 to 25 per cent at the moment on any one day, obviously different people are coming in different days.’
The Cabinet Office is expected to issue guidance to departments containing an assessment of how much time people in certain jobs should spend in the office
Ms Keegan said it is safe for staff to return as she said older workers have an ‘obligation to pass on our knowledge’ to younger staff and ‘there is a limit to how much you can do that on screen.’
Mr Sunak made clear this week that he is keen for staff to return to the workplace after he said that being around colleagues is ‘really beneficial’ at the start of a career.
He told LinkedIn News: ‘I have spoken previously about young people in particular benefiting from being in offices. It was really beneficial to me when I was starting out.’