Civil servants ‘resentful’ about No 10 insistence they return to office

Paymaster General, and Minister for the Cabinet Office Jeremy Quin leaves 10 Downing Street after attending the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Paymaster General Jeremy Quin highlighted benefits and efficiencies of office working at Cabinet Office meeting - Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Civil servants have complained about a government crackdown on working from home.

Jeremy Quin, the Paymaster General, told mandarins at a Cabinet Office meeting they are expected to return to their desks after officials raised concerns about plans to scale down remote working.

The senior minister argued there are real benefits to being in the office, especially for younger colleagues, while teams are likely to work better face to face.

He made the comments, first reported by Politico, during a “fireside chat” with permanent secretary Alex Chisholm at an all-staff meeting at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in Westminster on Thursday.

Officials attending in person and dialling in remotely were invited to submit queries, The Telegraph understands, with many asking about working from home – including some complaining about the Government’s latest crackdown.

Mr Quin responded by highlighting the advantages of coming into the office, arguing it helps the Government deliver on key priorities by creating a more efficient workforce.

‘We aren’t dogmatic about this’

A Whitehall source said: “We aren’t dogmatic about this. Jeremy was clear of the benefits to being in the office which can be essential to driving delivery and teaching younger staff. It’s about being fair to both taxpayers and the Civil Service.”

It comes after a union leader said civil servants are “resentful” about being forced back to the office.

Steven Littlewood, a national officer at the FDA union, said officials should not be made to spend hours commuting to work only to be sat in virtual meetings all day.

Under plans to end the “Tuesday to Thursday” office culture in Whitehall, Downing Street is preparing to issue new guidance to all departments ordering them to make sure more staff return to their desks.

It will target mandarins who regularly choose to log in remotely on Mondays and Fridays, a trend that has prompted growing alarm in No 10.

Ministers are looking at a range of options to firm up the system, such as a requirement for mandarins to seek permission to work from home.

Other options include introducing a new requirement for officials to work a set number of days in the office, which will probably be fixed at four a week.