Rees-Mogg targets flexitime in latest critique of civil service working arrangements

After criticising home working, minister says he worries "too much flexitime will keep civil servants from the office"
Photo: Uwe Deffner/Alamy Stock Photo

Jacob Rees-Mogg has called for an audit of flexitime arrangements that he has claimed may be keeping civil servants away from the office and from doing their best work.

The government efficiency minister told the Telegraph this weekend that flexible working arrangements – which are only available to some civil servants – are dampening his efforts to reduce the amount of time officials spend working from home.

“I have already encouraged civil servants to come back to the office instead of working from home, with improvements across Whitehall as a result,” Rees-Mogg said.

“But while we need some flexibility, I am concerned that too much flexitime will keep civil servants from the office and from doing their best work. 

“Working around others is good for everyone and will mean more job satisfaction for civil servants. That is why I am asking the Cabinet Office to report on the extent of flexitime and asking secretaries of state to do the same in their departments.”

Rees-Mogg's comments are the latest in a series of criticisms he has made of the civil service. He has been the driving force behind efforts to reduce remote working and has recently slammed wellness and diversity courses as "ridiculous" and "woke folderol".

Flexitime arrangements vary between departments, but give some officials a degree of freedom over when they start and finish their work days, as long as they cover core hours. Some civil servants are able to accrue flexitime when they work beyond their usual hours, and then claim it back later.

In 2018, then-environment secretary Michael Gove took aim at flexitime, suggesting some civil servants packed in their hours before clocking off mid-week.

A cabinet source was quoted as telling the Sunday Times that Gove had claimed officials “work their 37 hours a week and then they go home, even if that is Wednesday afternoon”.

A Cabinet Office Spokesperson said: “While the vast majority of civil servants do not have flexitime working agreements, such arrangements allow the civil service to attract a range of talented and capable people who may have caring responsibilities or disabilities.

"These arrangements always go through strict approval processes.”

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