The Treasury is telling new recruits to expect their future working patterns to be a roughly 50:50 split between office working and remote working, it has emerged.
The revelation comes in a tranche of job advertisements for posts in London and the department’s proposed northern headquarters at Darlington. It will be a reassurance to staff keen to retain the flexibility of hybrid working after the pandemic in the wake of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s controversial comments on the importance of returning to the office last month.
In his August interview with the little-known LinkedIn News, Sunak suggested remote working could be harmful to the careers of younger staff and said he did not believe he would have built the strong relationships he benefited from in his earlier financial career via Teams and Zoom.
Of the 16 jobs currently being advertised at the Treasury, all but three explicitly refer to the department’s expectation that the majority of its officials will only need to work from their office for around half of the working week.
The standard text states: “All staff follow government guidance about working from home during the pandemic. Once Covid-19 restrictions ease, most Treasury employees will be working a hybrid pattern, spending 2-3 days a week (pro rata) in an office, on average.”
The three posts that do not contain the standard text in their overview are a programme manager based in Westminster; an “administrator and assistant security officer apprentice”, also at Westminster; and a policy adviser based at Westminster or Darlington.
Last month, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove publicly rejected the suggestion that civil servants who worked from home should earn less money than their office-based colleagues after an unnamed cabinet minister made the proposal in the Daily Mail.
In a letter to Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, Gove said departments’ experience of remote working during the pandemic would be drawn upon as the government looked at how best to “adopt longer-term flexible-working arrangements” across the UK.
But he also insisted there were “clear productivity advantages” to office working in many cases.
Conservative MP Steve Baker reacted to the Tresaury's hybrid working plans by telling the Daily Telegraph that the civil service should be taking a lead in getting the nation “back to normal”.
Penman said the observation by Baker, who is deputy chair of the Conservative Party’s Covid Recovery Group, epitomised the problem at the heart of the return-to-work debate.
“What’s ‘normal’ has changed and for those with blinkers on it’s simply passed them by,” Penman wrote on Twitter.