Just one in five civil servants back in the office, minister admits despite claiming to 'lead by example'

·3-min read
Just one in five civil servants back in the office, minister admits despite claiming to 'lead by example' - Moment RF
Just one in five civil servants back in the office, minister admits despite claiming to 'lead by example' - Moment RF

Just one in five civil servants are back in the office, a minister has admitted, despite claiming the Government has been "leading by example" on getting back to work.

After months of telling people to work from home, there is now a desire within Westminster to get workers back to their offices after the guidance was dropped.

This is partly down to giving city and town centres a much-needed boost in footfall as ministers attempt to haul the economy back to pre-pandemic levels.

But a minister has estimated around 20 per cent of staff at the Department for Education are in the office on any one day at the moment.

Gillian Keegan, minister for apprenticeships and skills, told Times Radio: "I have been in the office four days a week since June last year, as have many of us you know because obviously we have had to navigate these very difficult decisions during the pandemic.

"And many of the civil servants are also back now, more and more are coming back, and quite frankly they are all excited to come back."

She added: "We have been there all the time as have many civil servants who support us. Of course the Government's advice was to work from home and we have only recently changed that advice to say it is safe to go back to the office."

She said the Government has said "use the summer to sort of reintroduce people coming back".

Asked how many civil servants are back in the office, she said: "In the DfE, I would say probably 20-25% at the moment on any one day, obviously different people are coming in different days."

She added: "I think we have led by example and I think more and more people will, but we have said use the summer to get people coming back, get people comfortable with coming back, and you know not everybody will be back all the time, flexible working will be part of our future and we are not telling businesses what to do."

Unlike last year, the Government has not actively urged staff to return to the office.

While some workplaces like Netflix, Google and Facebook have announced plans in the US to only allow fully-vaccinated employees to enter the workplace, ministers have been much more guarded in their language this time around.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps whilst the "jabs for jobs" scheme was a "good idea", the Government would not be making it legislation.

In a much softer approach, Rishi Sunak has told young people that being back in the office environment is "really beneficial" to their careers, warning Zoom calls was no substitute.

In an interview with LinkedIn News, he said: "I was telling them that the mentors I found when I first started my job I still talk to and they have been helpful to me even after we have gone in different ways. I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom.

"That's why I think for young people in particular being able to physically be in an office is valuable."

His comments come as many experts suggested flexible working, with people splitting their time between the home and the office, will become the norm in the UK.

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