Ministers ‘sound like Luddites’ trying to get workers back to offices – union

Ministers are “increasingly sounding like Luddites” in trying to encourage people back into the office, a union has said.

Civil service union the FDA said the “Government needs to embrace the change” in working from home amid a push to get people back to the workplace.

General secretary Dave Penman said the switch to home working was “effectively a big experiment” and that the private and public sector have found people to be productive at home.

He added: “The reality is that civil servants who can’t work from home have been in workplaces throughout the pandemic and marching tens of thousands of workers back into offices and on to public transport, when they can work perfectly well from home, is the last thing we need at the moment.

“Ministers are increasingly sounding like Luddites, trying to resist a change that is here to stay for good.

An empty concourse at Paddington Station
An empty concourse at Paddington Station

“Employees are still earning money and they’re still spending, just differently.”

His comments come after Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said “more than half” of staff are “fully back in the offices” at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), despite pictures showing parts of London still empty of office workers.

Ms Coffey said that 799 of the department’s 804 sites are open, and she hoped that children returning to school would give parents more opportunities to go back to the office.

The minister told BBC Breakfast: “It’s important that employers and employees have that discussion about Covid-safe environments.” She added: “There’ll be more opportunities for parents to go back into the office if that’s what is the best thing for them and their employer.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that people were returning “in huge numbers to the office”.

Downing Street could not provide figures to back up the claims.

Quiet Bank junction
Quiet Bank junction

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “I don’t have the figures especially for today but you can expect to see more civil servants return to the office over the coming weeks with the return of Parliament and children to schools.

“We’ve been clear with departments that they need to ensure Government workspaces are Covid-secure and permanent secretaries have been undertaking the work to return civil servants to the office or workplace.”