Let civil servants tailor their working day around the school run, union says, as it slams government ‘focus on filling desks’ as a ‘blunt instrument’ which fails to take account of flexible working during Covid
- Prospect union has said it has held discussions with government departments
- Its general secretary said the union is looking to retain flexible working benefits that were introduced with the announcement of the first national lockdown
- Mike Clancy said civil servants could tailor their work around ‘life events’
- This is despite No10 saying it wants to see Civil Service offices at ‘full capacity’
A union has claimed civil servants could tailor office and home-working around ‘life events’, despite Downing Street saying there was an ambition for Government offices to ‘return to full capacity’.
Prospect, that represents around 28,000 civil servants, also slammed what it called the government’s ‘focus on filling desks’ as a ‘blunt instrument’ which fails to take into account flexible working benefits gained during the pandemic.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mike Clancy – Prospect’s general secretary – said his organisation is looking to ‘retain some of the benefits’ of flexible working introduced two years ago with the country’s first national lockdown.
He said hat his organisation has held ‘sensible conversations’ with the majority of government departments.
‘The focus on filling desks and occupancy fails to take account of the experience of the last two years,’ Mr Clancy told the newspaper. ‘It’s a blunt instrument approach to what is a complex matter of flexibility.’
A union has claimed civil servants could tailor office and home-working around ‘life events’, despite Downing Street saying there was an ambition for Government offices to ‘return to full capacity’. Pictured: Whitehall is seen on March 25, 2020 – two days after the first national lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Reasons to work from home could range from unexpected changes in circumstance, to the school run, and spending more time with children, he said.
But Mr Clancy added that working from home is just one of the flexible working benefits Prospect is pushing for the Civil Service to adopt.
‘It can be everything from the unexpected things where you move into a caring responsibility, domestic events, life events, but also it can be time with your children, the ability to do school runs, things of that nature,’ he said.
‘What people have appreciated during the pandemic is that sort of engagement with domestic responsibility and building around their deliverables for their employer.’
Wednesday marks two years to the day that Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the United Kingdom’s first national lockdown, and by extension ordered millions of workers across the country to work from home.
In recent months some workplaces – including Whitehall – have pushed for workers to return to officers, at least on a part-time basis, as Covid-19 has become more manageable with a population whose vast majority is vaccinated.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was yesterday asked how many civil servants were still working from home now all Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted.
He said: ‘As you’ll know, the civil service is a large organisation, covers a number of roles, so it’s hard to collate all information and we are now one of the few countries that has no pandemic restrictions.
‘We do want Government offices to return to full capacity, recognising that flexible working will play an important part of a modern workplace, as in the civil service, but I don’t have any stats.’
Wednesday marks two years since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the United Kingdom’s first national lockdown, and by extension ordered millions of workers across the country to work from home. Pictured: Boris Johnson addresses the nation on March 23, 2020
He added: ‘We simply want, as the Cabinet Secretary and others have been clear… we want Government offices which are paid for by the taxpayers to return to the capacity levels – effectively for the desks to be fully used – and we know that all departments are working to achieve that.
‘And we recognise that flexible working will play a role. But it’s right that we make best use of these departments.’
In January, Steve Barclay – the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – wrote to each department telling them they should ‘lead the way’ in returning to the office.
But despite this stance, Mr Clancy said that ‘hybrid working policies’ are being drawn up by various government departments and agencies. This includes the Ministry of Defence, he claimed.
Prospect has previously hit out at the government for demanding civil servants return to their offices.
‘I will not be taking lectures on hard work from someone whose definition of a work event appears to involve cheese, wine and a garden,’ Garry Graham, Prospect’s deputy general secretary, said in a January statement.
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