No target set for civil servants to return to office

Downing Street has said it will not impose a “specific target” on Whitehall departments for civil servants to return to the office, despite doing so last year.

It marks a change of approach from when Mark Sedwill was Cabinet Secretary and wrote to permanent secretaries warning that 80 per cent of staff must turn up at least once a week.

Last year, he set out a blueprint for all public sector staff in England, which suggested 20 per cent attend five days a week, 30 per cent attend for three days, and 30 per cent attend two days a week.

However, The Telegraph understands that departments will instead be able to decide for themselves if they want to implement quotas for in-person working. 

‘Steady return of civil servants’

Yesterday, a Number 10 spokesman said: "The approach we have set out for step four continues. As we asked for and expected, we are seeing a steady return of civil servants to the office, working. That’s what we would expect, not just in the civil service but in the private sector as well and that will continue."

When asked whether targets would be imposed on departments, the Number 10 spokesman said: "There are no plans for specific targets as you set out. The Civil Service is following the guidance to gradually increase the number of staff in the workplace."

He added that it was “about making sure that all government departments are putting in place measures so that we can allow for the return of staff in a gradual manner”.

Simon Case, the current Cabinet Secretary, has told permanent secretaries they must think about getting staff to come back.

It comes after Boris Johnson used his speech at the Conservative Party Conference last week to urge people working from home to return to their pre-pandemic employment habits.

The Prime Minister said: “We know that a productive workforce needs that spur that only comes with face to face meetings and water cooler gossip. If young people are to learn on the job in the way that they always have and must, we will and must see people back in the office.”

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