Jacob Rees-Mogg tells Cabinet to start 'rapid return' of civil servants to offices

19 April 2022, 10:19 | Updated: 19 April 2022, 12:24

Mr Rees-Mogg wants a 'rapid' return of civil servants to offices
Mr Rees-Mogg wants a 'rapid' return of civil servants to offices. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Ministers are being told to order civil servants to return to the office, with up to three quarters of staff still working from home.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told LBC this morning: "I support the work Jacob Rees-Mogg is doing to see more people back in the office, I think it is a good thing."

Up to three quarters of staff are still working from home, according to The Telegraph.

The newspaper said that Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Government efficiency, has written to all secretaries of state saying they must send a "clear message" to civil servants to bring about a "rapid return" to face-to-face work.

He has also sent ministers a league table showing how many staff in each Government department were attending the office on an average day in the week staring April 4, it said.

In his letter, Mr Rees-Mogg reportedly wrote: "Now that we are learning to live with Covid and have lifted all legal restrictions in England, we must continue to accelerate the return of civil servants to office buildings to realise the benefits of face-to-face, collaborative working and the wider benefits for the economy.

To deliver this, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Steve Barclay, and I, urge you to issue a clear message to civil servants in your department to ensure a rapid return to the office.

"[This] is subject to existing legal obligations, including but not limited to, equality and discrimination considerations and statutory rights to request flexible working arrangements."

A Whitehall audit revealed roughly 80% of Government departments were operating with less than half of all desks in use, while 36% were running at two thirds of normal levels.

Prior to the Covid crisis, average staff occupancy across the estate stood at around 80%, it said.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, was quoted as claiming Mr Rees-Mogg is less interested in "productivity or delivery" than spending time "counting civil servants in and out of buildings".

A Government spokesperson said: "Ministers have been clear that departments should make maximum use of office space and progress is being monitored."