'Out of touch' | Gov minister says remote workers deserve pay cut

Gov minister says remote workers deserve pay cut

An unnamed Government Cabinet minister has sparked controversy by suggesting that civil servants should either return to their offices on Whitehall, or face a dock in their pay if they refuse.

The anonymous minister alleged, as reported by the Daily Mail, that following the extended remote working period as a result of the coronavirus, returning to a central place of work should be mandatory – with refusal leading to reductions in salary.

“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 reportedly told the paper.

“If people aren’t going into work, they don’t deserve the terms and conditions they get if they are going into work,” they added, noting that those who chose to stay remote threatened their own career prospects.

“People who want to get on in life will go into the office because that’s how people are going to succeed.”

However, the comments were branded as ‘insulting’ and 'out of touch' by a civil service union chief, who added that ministers should ‘focus on whether public services are being delivered, rather than where civil servants are sitting on a particular day’.

“These insulting comments from ministers and politicians only demonstrate that they are out of touch with modern working practices,” Dave Penman, General Secretary of the FDA civil service union told the PA news agency.

“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.

“As the last 18 months has demonstrated, there are many tasks that can be done just as effectively whilst working remotely,” Penman added.

The comments came after the Government had previously announced that a return to the workplace for civil servants would be ‘cautious’, with departments having the option to introduce flexibility into how they chose to manage the process.

A Government spokesman added that the approach would take advantage of the benefits of both office and home-based working across the UK.

“The Civil Service continues to follow Government guidance, as we gradually and cautiously increase the number of staff working in the office. Our approach, which builds on our learning during the pandemic, takes advantage of the benefits of both office and home-based working across the UK,” they said.

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Comments (1)

  • Brian
    Tue, 10 Aug 2021 5:58pm BST
    I know this article was about a potential two-tiered pay structure, however I have to pick up on the following ...

    Quote: "ministers should ‘focus on whether public services are being delivered, rather than where civil servants are sitting on a particular day’."
    My experience of dealing with various elements of the public sector thoughout the pandemic has demonstrated that services are not being delivered.
    Based on real-world interactions, and not surveys or internal feedback, remote working has clearly resulted in a reduction in public sector productivity. This is also true of other large, traditional, organisations such as banks, insrance companies, etc.

    Additionally, certainly in the private sector, there aren't many companies that have been able to reduce their office costs. Doing so may well be under consideration but rent reviews and lease break clauses arrive on a fixed term basis, not just because staff are not in attendance.

    Hybrid working may well be here to stay in one form or another but the policies that enable it, as well as the staff making use of it, need to be managed and reviewed in a much more active way than used to be required by traditional in-office working. The challenge for such businesses, and by extension HR, will be to assist leaders to manage their teams effectively while coping with wildly differing working patterns and locations.

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