The Daily Telegraph

Whitehall empties out as most staff are working at home


MORE than half of civil servants worked from home in every department last week for the first time since the Government started publishing post-pandemic data.

New figures show attendance levels plummeted to an average of just 26.5 per cent across the whole of Whitehall after the Christmas holidays.

The Scotland Office registered the lowest ever number on record of just eight per cent, while the Department of

Health performed best on 48 per cent. Only two other department­s, the Northern Ireland Office and the Ministry of Defence, got more than a third of staff behind their desks.

It comes against a backdrop of union sabre-rattling, with 100,000 civil servants set to go on strike on Feb 1 in a row over pay and conditions.

The figures will have been heavily skewed by the rail strikes and the fact that the New Year Bank Holiday meant it was a four-day week.

But they still represent a record low attendance and come after ministers raised concerns about slipping dress standards in Whitehall.

At the Home Office, which is battling the small boats crisis, only one in six civil servants was at their desk.

Meanwhile, at the Department for Transport, which is on the frontline of trying to do a deal to end the rail strikes, a quarter of staff were in.

The Government started publishing data last February when Jacob Rees-mogg, the former efficiency minister, launched a crackdown on home-working.

Last week is the first time since then that not a single Whitehall department has registered more than half of its workers in the office.

For the three-day week of the Queen’s Jubilee, when workers were given two Bank Holidays, overall attendance across the civil service was 65 per cent.

Offices were on average 35 per cent full during the first week of rail strikes chaos in June.

A government spokespers­on said: “There is total agreement across government on there being clear benefits from face-to-face, collaborat­ive working and department­s across government remain committed to having staff working in offices at pre-pandemic levels.”

It comes after reports that ministers have had to clamp down on civil servants for dressing too casually when they do head into the office.

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, has banned officials from wearing trainers at the Treasury, according to the Evening Standard. Similarly, rules have been tightened at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport after one civil servant turned up in a branded T-shirt.

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