31 August 2021

Hybrid Working in DWP

Following the period of civil servants working from home during the pandemic, the Cabinet Office has created four "personas" to describe different ways of working going forward.

Throughout the pandemic many workers have been allowed to work from home. We have conclusive proof that workers can work from home and still deliver vital services, without affecting workloads and performance.

While it has not always been easy for some of our members, for many it 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 giving the planet a breather with a reduction in CO2 and other harmful emissions associated with transport.

Civil Service Personas

As a result of the lessons learned the civil service have been keen to introduce a blended approach to working, which would allow employees to work between the home, as well as other outstations, and the workplace. The Cabinet Office has adopted four different types of working which they call “Personas”.

DWP have adopted these personas and have now issued their guidance describing each one and confirming which persona will apply to staff in the department. The personas are as follows:

  1. Workplace based - Role is likely to be based in one fixed office location. Role is likely to require larger proportion of the working week 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.
  2. 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 current proposals is homeworking can be up to 60% of a hybrid workers time. The DWP sees those in scope as employees whose work is non customer facing such as benefit processing, telephony, corporate centre workers.
  3. Mobile worker - Role is likely to be undertaken from a variety of locations on a daily basis, 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. The DWP sees this status as applying to Visiting officers, Fraud and Compliance officers
  4. Home worker – people contracted to work from home, but may work from other locations from time to time.

For personas 1 to 3 home working is not a contractual arrangement, but a flexible agreement between the DWP and the employee. Hybrid working will always be voluntary so if an employee prefers to work in the workplace all of the time, then they can do so. 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

Whilst 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 consultation between PCS and DWP, the employer has insisted that although front-facing members will have the equipment to work from home, opportunities to do so will be very limited. The Department and the Government are dogmatically insisting that services in Jobcentres for example should almost exclusively be delivered face to face. 
PCS have a proud history of supporting community-based Jobcentres serving the people that live close to them, particularly those who are vulnerable, and were strong opponents of the Department and UK Government’s office closure programme under the People and Locations banner.

However, we also believe that Jobcentre workers should have greater access to opportunities to work from home than the current proposals allow.

Unfair treatment

Jobcentre members have had to make great sacrifices throughout the pandemic, categorised as key workers they have continued to put themselves, their families and 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.

Still in a pandemic

PCS has continued to argue that the access to working from home for our members over the next few months is greater than ever. We see that both the daily infection and mortality rates are volatile, and know the scientists predict a further spike in confirmed cases during the winter months. Now is not the time to be restricting access to remote working for our members. It is why we are still in dispute with DWP over safety in Jobcentres and asked DWP not to implement or introduce the formal hybrid working proposals while we are still in pandemic.

PCS will continue to campaign for all members who want decent access to working from home to have it and are currently encouraging members to attend meetings organised by branches to discuss the current safety position in DWP. 

Your engagement with the union is critical during the period ahead, will help inform our negotiation strategy as well as informing us of our wider memberships preparedness to act collectively to maintain your safety.