Ministers may face a battle with unions as a push to get more civil servants back into Whitehall causes controversy.

A cabinet minister suggested recently that individuals who refuse to return to the office after working from home for over a year should have a pay cut.

The Government had previously suggested that it would follow a “cautious” approach to civil servants returning to their offices, with a flexible approach to how each department manages the process. A Government spokesman also stated that their strategy would take advantage of hybrid working.

But, a cabinet minister has recently shown the opposite view, proposing that civil servants who refuse to come into the office should face a pay cut. The minister, who wants to see more employees back at their desks, claimed that penalising those staying at home would be reasonable because they benefitted from no commuting costs. 

“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,” said the minister.

“If people aren’t going into work, they don’t deserve the terms and conditions they get if they are going into work.”

It was also reported that one unidentified Government department is set to demand its workers to the office at least three days a week by October.

A Whitehall spokesperson added that “It’s hard to know who is deserving of a promotion when people are working remotely.”

However, the civil service union chief described this suggestion as “insulting”. They said that ministers should be focussing on whether public services are delivered rather than where civil servants are physically working.

In complete disagreement with this approach, Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA Civil Service Union said, “These insulting comments from ministers and politicians only demonstrate that they are out of touch with modern working practices.”

“What should matter to ministers is whether public services are being delivered effectively, not where individual civil servants are sitting on a particular day.”

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