Many Whitehall mandarins do not expect to return to the office before the new year, say insiders

Alex Chisholm, the chief operating officer of the civil service, has written to all Whitehall departments saying  it was time to “accelerate the return to the workplace”.

However, as many as four fifths of civil servants are currently working from home.

A civil servant from a third department said mandarins will be given “at least a month’s notice” before having to stop working from home.

The source said: “We’ve had no formal confirmation when everybody’s expected to return at full capacity. People will need to be given at least a month’s notice – we won’t be told on Friday to go back on Monday.”

One Government source believes September will be a “crunch point” when more members of the public will return to the office and “it will be hard for them [Whitehall staff] to find reasons not to go back”.

“In September more people will go back, big businesses will start to stagger returning people to work,” the source continued.

“At that point, the unions will start  to look like they are on their own in not supporting going back. The tide will then turn, and the public will be on the Government’s side – they will say: ‘Why the hell are you not going back?'”

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA, the trade union representing civil servants, said: “The majority of civil servants are working successfully from home. Ministers need to recognise this, and allow the civil service to manage this transition.”

A Government source has confirmed there is “no order to get back into the office” for civil servants but added that work is ongoing to increase capacity across Whitehall.

A Government spokesman said: “Civil servants have worked throughout the pandemic and have made significant, valuable contributions towards the national effort. 

“We are consulting closely with employees on ending the default that civil servants should work from home and have ensured workplaces are Covid-secure so civil servants can return safely.”

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