DWP’s return-to-office rate ‘not good enough’ says Stride

Work and pensions secretary says office attendance is currently “around 50%” and needs to improve
Work and pensions secretary Mel Stride is interviewed on LBC

By Jim Dunton

29 Jun 2023

The proportion of Department for Work and Pensions officials still working remotely following the pandemic is too high and more need to return to the office, secretary of state Mel Stride has said.

According to the cabinet minister, around half of the department’s staff are working remotely at any given time – a situation Stride said requires improvement.

The Cabinet Office’s latest statistics on staff attendance at departmental headquarters buildings report that DWP’s Caxton House main building has been operating at 62% capacity or above all month.

However, DWP has the highest core-department headcount in government and offices across the country, including hundreds of jobcentres.

Asked about his department’s overall performance on radio station LBC’s “Call the Cabinet” slot, hosted by Nick Ferrari,  Stride said he wanted to see greater numbers of DWP officials return to their offices.

Ferrari asked Stride what proportion of DWP staff were “behind their desks”.

“It’s around 50% on any one day,” Stride replied.

Asked if he was “happy with that”, Stride answered: “No, I’m working to have that figure increased and it has actually increased from where it was when I joined the department.”

Stride said that the figure had been “down at nearer 40%” when he was appointed to his current role when Rishi Sunak became prime minister in October.

He told Ferrari that there was no target figure for office attendance that he was aware of, but said the correct balance had not been achieved.

“I don’t know whether we’ve got an over-the-organisation goal, because we’ve got 90,000 people and some people have to be in work every single day,” he said.

“Work coaches are there to have face-to-face meetings in jobcentres with clients. There are other areas where working from home works much more effectively. But I do want to see that number go up, and that’s something that I – and, I know, fellow ministers – are also working on.”

Last week, Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin told MPs that office-based work should be the “default” position for civil servants.

“We believe that means we get more out of employees, there is better productivity and it is a better experience for those working together in that team environment,” he remarked during a topical questions session in the House of Commons. 

Quin was responding to a question from Conservative MP Michael Fabricant, who argued the case for what he called “TWATism”, which he said referred to people who work in the office on Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays – but choose to work remotely on Mondays and Fridays.


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