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Wednesday 20 April 2022

“No rationale” for ordering civil servants back to office

Ian Davidson Photography / Shutterstock.com

FDA General Secretary Dave Penman has said ministers’ “obsession with ending flexible working and micro-managing the civil service increasingly just looks vindictive”, after Jacob Rees-Mogg called for an end to civil servants working from home.

The Minister for Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg wrote to ministers asking for civil service attendance to be monitored in their departments, with reports emerging that security staff had been asked to use clickers to count civil servants entering government buildings.

Speaking to John Pienaar on Times Radio, Penman outlined how “the government, which used to actually be at the forefront of flexible working, is sounding like luddites, while the rest of the economy is embracing hybrid working”.

“The Minister for Government Efficiency, supposedly, has got public servants spending time counting people at their desks rather than interested in whether they’re actually delivering public services,” he added. “It’s just, I think, so demoralising for staff around this issue. They’re delivering public services. They’ve demonstrated they can do that, whether they’re sitting at home or sitting at their desk, and ministers should just get off the back of civil servants, allow them to manage their workforce and worry about what’s actually being delivered rather than where people’s desks are.”

In a further statement, Penman stressed that “there is no rationale” for this approach, as “ministers can’t point to productivity losses” linked to increased hybrid working in the civil service. He also warned that, if the Cabinet insists “on micro-managing the civil service” in this way, it will “only deter good people from joining while simultaneously demotivating those already there”.

Penman’s comments were also reported by the Mail, Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Mirror, on the BBC News website and across regional publications.

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