Ministers could face a battle with unions over a drive to get more civil servants back into Whitehall.
One Cabinet minister has suggested that officials should have their pay docked if they refuse to return to the office after working from home for so long during the pandemic.
The comments were described as “insulting” by a civil service union chief, who said ministers should focus on whether public services are being delivered, rather than where civil servants are sitting.
The unnamed minister’s comments came as the Government stressed it would follow a “cautious” approach to civil servants returning to their offices, with departments able to be flexible in how the process is managed.
But what angered most people was the part of the article that read: “The minister said people should be ‘keen to get back to normal’, adding that it was difficult to know whether someone at home was working or watching television.”
“‘I think people who want to get on in life will go into the office because that’s how people are going to succeed.”
The anonymous minister seems to have missed the research that says people are actually working longer hours at home than they were in the office.
Also MPs can claim £10,000 for additional office costs incurred as a result of the coronavirus.
The money can be used to buy additional equipment such as laptops and printers for staff having to work from home.
A Government spokesman said the approach would take advantage of the benefits of both office and home-based working across the UK.
But a Cabinet minister told the Daily Mail that civil servants who refuse to come into the office should face a pay cut.
“People who have been working from home aren’t paying their commuting costs so they have had a de facto pay rise, so that is unfair on those who are going into work,” the minister said.
“If people aren’t going into work, they don’t deserve the terms and conditions they get if they are going into work.”
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA civil service union, told the PA news agency: “These insulting comments from ministers and politicians only demonstrate that they are out of touch with modern working practices.
“Across the economy – in both the private and public sectors – employers are embracing hybrid working, which provides greater work-life balance for employees and reduced office costs for employers.
“Only last week, the Government announced that due to hybrid working, an additional eight Government departments could now move into the new civil service hub in Leeds.
“As the last 18 months has demonstrated, there are many tasks that can be done just as effectively whilst working remotely.
“Indeed, the Government’s own flagship Places for Growth strategy – moving civil service jobs out of London – was already predicated on at least 40% of these being done remotely, and that was before Covid.
“What should matter to ministers is whether public services are being delivered effectively, not where individual civil servants are sitting on a particular day.”
They think we’re schoolchildren who won’t do anything unless teacher is watching pic.twitter.com/eb4ICzEcVO— Otto English (@Otto_English) August 8, 2021
Unlike this tory minister some of us have quotas, targets and deadlines to meet. So obviously if we aren’t doing the work it becomes very apparent. Furthermore, one can argue that Working from home is in a sense more efficient/productive than the office life— Mr Entanglement ?????? (@IssaBo419) August 8, 2021
surely anyone with half a brain has now got past the idea that “home working” involves regular skiving in front of the TV pic.twitter.com/4PsXyxNm4f— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) August 8, 2021
I used to sit in the office and watch tv, I can do the same at home just without trousers— Kenny Onions (@Kenny_Onions) August 8, 2021
The wealthy elite sit and watch TV all day and still make millions— james (@jimbolene) August 9, 2021
That’s absolute rubbish. Most people who are able to work from home have an output which a company can decide if it’s sufficient. Also they are able to monitor IT activity and make a judgement.— Stanley_Walker (@Stanley_Walker) August 8, 2021
I think the minister will find that many people actually work much longer hours with fewer, if any breaks. I regularly find it’s gone 2pm before I realise i haven’t had a break…I find this very insulting!— 2Ms’not1 (@SueSimms8) August 8, 2021
It says a lot about their own lack of work ethics!— V. #IWearAMask #InLimbo #LesMaitresdelOrage (@InlimboV) August 9, 2021
This is after an extra £10,000 was made available by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to MPs’ office costs budget to work from home during the pandemic!— Jayne Samuel-Walker???????????️?#FBIW (@TCMuffin) August 9, 2021
With a relaxation of the rules on evidence of purchases ?https://t.co/CAfYbnGh13
They want to save all those office landlords who are coincidentally also Tory donors from going broke. Isn’t that nice!?— Livia Augusta (@LiviaAugusta10) August 8, 2021