22 July 2021

Hybrid working in DWP

With the easing of restrictions and the reopening of society, a return to the workplace is a matter of great concern for many of our members. Questions have been asked about the possibility of hybrid working.

Prior to the pandemic it was a truth almost universally understood that most employers, including civil service employers, required their employees to work exclusively from the workplace. 

The pandemic has meant that out of necessity, and in order to keep workers safe, many employees have been allowed to work from home. This has proved conclusively that workers can be trusted to work from home and still be able to deliver on workloads and performance. 

While this has not always been easy for some, particularly because of the isolation that has come with the succession of lockdown measures, for many this has meant the end of expensive, time-consuming and stressful commutes into workplaces. This has resulted in improved wellbeing for those whose circumstances support working from home as well as a reduction in the CO2 and other harmful emissions associated with transport.

Civil service personas

The civil service has identified four different types of ways of working which they call “Personas”.

These are as follows, with their typical characteristics:

Workplace based - Role is likely to be based in one fixed office location. Role is likely to require larger proportion of the working week to involve meeting customers face-to-face/contact with the public in DWP or other location.

The DWP believes that all jobcentre roles will be workplace based but virtually enabled so that it remains possible to work from home.

Hybrid worker - Role can be undertaken in any agreed location. Role likely to have limited face to face public or partner contact. Contact with customers and partners mainly undertaken via the phone and digital solutions. The DWP’s currently proposes that homeworking can be up to 60% of a hybrid worker’s time.

Employees whose work is non-customer facing such as benefit processing, telephony, corporate centre workers.

Mobile worker - Role is likely to be undertaken from a variety of locations daily, not a single office base. Role likely requires face-to-face contact with public or customers outside of office environment. Location of the role is determined by the activity or service required.

This would include visiting officers, fraud and compliance officers

Home worker – people contracted to work from home but may work from other locations from time to time.

With the first three personas, home working is not a contractual arrangement but an agreement between the DWP and the employee. Hybrid working will always be voluntary so if an employee prefers to work in the workplace all the time, then they can. 

Both workplace based and hybrid workers will be remote enabled so they will have the ability to work from home. 

PCS view on hybrid working proposals

While there is much to welcome in these proposals and the access to hybrid working has the potential to liberate many from the daily commute, thereby having a role in the reduction of carbon emissions, the big problem with the DWP’s current position is that jobcentre staff will not have access to hybrid working. 

In the discussions that PCS has had with DWP, the employer has insisted that, although jobcentre members will have the equipment to work from home, opportunities to work from home for workplace-based workers will be very limited. The department and the government are dogmatically insisting that jobcentre services should almost exclusively be delivered face to face. 

PCS strongly believes in community-based jobcentres serving the people that live close to them, particularly those who are vulnerable, but also believes that jobcentre workers should have greater access to opportunities to work from home than the current proposals allow. 

Jobcentre members have had to make great sacrifices throughout the pandemic, categorised as key workers they have continued to put themselves, their families and their communities at risk by delivering limited services to the most vulnerable from their workplaces. The period of the pandemic has also shown, conclusively, that jobcentre staff can deliver great service from home. It is scant reward for this group of workers, highly praised by so many including the prime minister, that they do not have access to something every other group of employees in DWP has, namely the ability to have reasonable working from home arrangements.

PCS will continue to campaign for all members who want decent access to homeworking to have it.

Mark Page
Full-time officer