Mandarins have considered stripping London-based civil servants of a salary boost in a bid to encourage staff back to the office, it was claimed last night.
Whitehall officials discussed the proposal among ways to incentivise workers to return to their desks, although no decisions have been made, sources told The Guardian.
The salary boost, known as the
It is understood that Whitehall managers have pointed out to civil servants that they receive the bonus in discussions about returning to the office.
It comes after Number 10 slapped down a Cabinet minister who suggested civil servants who refuse to return to the office should take a pay cut.
Downing Street was forced to step in after the senior minister told the Mail it was unfair that staff still working from home should get the same benefits as those commuting in.
Mandarins have considered stripping London-based civil servants of a salary boost in a bid to encourage staff back to the office, it was claimed last night
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there were ‘no plans’ to cut the pay of civil servants – and insisted the return to Whitehall would be ‘gradual’.
Yet Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said yesterday that he wanted his officials to be back in two or three days a week ‘fairly soon’.
‘We don’t know when the Covid pandemic will end. We don’t know what the circumstances will be but ideally I’d like most workers – all workers – in my department to be coming in two or three days a week,’ he told LBC radio.
‘I think three days a week is fair. I’m just reluctant to say it has to be by September 1 or September 15. I think it needs to be done fairly soon [but] we need to look at where we are with the pandemic before we can make that call.’
A Cabinet minister earlier told the Mail that home workers had been given a ‘de facto pay rise’ because they had saved on commuting costs. They added that this was ‘unfair on those who are going into work’.
However, when asked about the comments yesterday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We have no plans for that approach.’
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there were ‘no plans’ to cut the pay of civil servants – and insisted the return to Whitehall would be ‘gradual’
Yet Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said yesterday that he wanted his officials to be back in two or three days a week ‘fairly soon’
Analysis by the Mail suggests working from home can save hundreds of pounds a week. A person commuting from Guildford to London spends around £240 a week on average. The sum includes almost £100 on a train season ticket, £50 for coffees and lunches and an underground travelcard for £37.
Unions representing civil servants reacted furiously to the suggestion of a pay cut for home workers.
A spokesman for the PCS Union said: ‘It is the height of cowardice for ministers to anonymously brief the media about docking civil servants’ pay for not returning to the office.
‘Any attempt to dock pay for civil servants for any reason would be met with a swift industrial response, potentially including strike action.’
Meanwhile Scotland’s deputy first minister, John Swinney, said working nine-to-five in the office may never return because of a widespread move towards a ‘hybrid’ week. He added: ‘I have listened to many members of the public saying that they’ve actually appreciated being at home a bit more – saving the commute, being able to exercise a bit more, being a bit more accessible to family and still able to do their work.
‘And I certainly think we are moving to a situation where there will be a much greater acceptance of the concept of hybrid working.
‘I think people inevitably will gravitate back to the office to some extent. [However] I’m not sure people will be back in the Monday-to-Friday kind of environment that we’ve been accustomed to in the past.’
One Tory MP told The Guardian that the London weighting should ‘absolutely’ be withdrawn for those not commuting or living in the capital.
Another said: ‘If they are – against advice – choosing not to work in the department, then the London allowance should be reconsidered as it’s not fair.’
But the FDA union, which represents civil servants, criticised the ‘insulting and cowardly attacks’.
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