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Wednesday 18 August 2021

Responding to the FDA, Gove knocks down “unhelpful” commentary on home working

Michael-Gove-2-847
Ilyas Tayfun Salci / Shutterstock.com

In a letter to FDA General Secretary Dave Penman, Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove praised the “hard work, diligence and selflessness” of civil servants and accepted that there are “benefits” to home working.

His comments come in a response to a letter from Penman, in which he called on the Minister for the Cabinet Office to publicly distance the government from a series of anonymous briefings in the press, in which ministers attacked civil servants for working from home and threatening to cut their pay unless they went back into workplaces.

Gove said that he understood “entirely the importance of placing on record” his appreciation for the civil service and agreed with the FDA General Secretary that there are occasions “when it is clearly right to knock down unhelpful commentary. And this is one”.

“As Minister for the Cabinet Office, and on behalf of the whole Government, I want to make crystal clear that your members, and indeed the entire Civil Service, has stepped up brilliantly to the challenge of the pandemic,” he wrote. “Civil service colleagues have shown flexibility, resilience and great generosity of spirit in the last, difficult, 16 months. Working remotely or in the office, developing policy at speed or delivering services on the ground, the Civil Service has demonstrated the very best qualities of public service – and I know the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet will be forever grateful.”

He went on to say that civil servants had “pioneered new ways of working to continue to serve ministers and the public” which “ensured that the Government kept going” throughout the pandemic.

Stressing that departments and agencies are “taking a cautious and gradual approach to returning staff safely to their normal places of work”, Gove said that this approach “builds on important learning during the pandemic”. While giving his opinion that “in many cases” there are “productivity advantages to office working”, he said that “technology provides a vital back up” and the government’s approach “takes advantage of the benefits of home and office working”.

“We will also draw on these lessons as we consider how best to adopt longer-term flexible working arrangements in locations across the UK,” he added. “Arrangements which I agree are crucial to delivering on our mission to be a government more like the country we serve, with more officials and as importantly ministers outside of London, and great career prospects regardless of where you work.”

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