7 March 2022

PCS strike ballot over Ofsted forced return to offices

PCS has informed Ofsted that we are balloting our members over its plans to impose a requirement that its offices are 60% occupied by staff every working day.

Balloting for strike action and action short of strike is not something we do lightly. It is a regrettable position we have arrived at after giving Ofsted plenty of opportunity to reconsider its unfair, unjustified and arbitrary compulsory return to the offices.

The 60% requirement itself and only one week notice - staff were told on 31 January and the policy came into effect on 7 February - is unparalleled in other government departments. Staff will be expected to attend work for a minimum of 3 days a week. The implementation of the policy has been rushed and ill-thought-out and the upset this has caused staff was completely avoidable.

The measures PCS has exhausted include:

  • requesting a pause to allow for consultation
  • surveying our members and presenting the anonymised feedback to Ofsted
  • proposing an alternative compulsory attendance and a significantly altered exceptions policy
  • and requesting to go to ACAS to resolve this trade dispute.

Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Ofsted has simply restated that it will not reconsider the mandatory 60% office attendance requirement. Most recently, it expressed its belief that it does not need to consult on the return to offices as it is an operational decision.

To be clear, this is not the case and it is a significant deviation from the good relationship that PCS and the trade union side have enjoyed with Ofsted throughout the pandemic; where we have been consulted on all other operational decisions regarding the requirement for staff to attend the office.

Though Ofsted management have pieced together reasons why they want to reintroduce more office working, they have not yet given a sufficient rationale for why this has to be 60%, instead of something more in line with other civil service departments.

What happens next?

We cannot allow Ofsted to press ahead with this unreasonable demand to return to offices, without consultation and while refusing to review the policy in light of our members’ views. Sending a strong message in a ballot is the best way to get Ofsted back around the table and willing to review and renegotiate its hasty and mishandled return to offices position.

The ballot period will run from Tuesday, 15 March to Tuesday, 5 April. This is a postal ballot, so it is really important that members have the correct postal address registered with PCS.

It is so important that members:

  1. Make sure they have an up to date personal email address and phone number registered with PCS. You can do this via PCS Digital.
  2. Speak to fellow members and colleagues about why you are voting in the ballot.
  3. Contact their local reps to discuss any queries or concerns. You can find their details on PCS Digital.

Join the members' meeting 

We are holding a members' meeting on Zoom at 5pm on Thursday (10).

The login details for the meeting have been sent to members' personal email addresses. If you have not received this information, get in contact with branch chair Os Isik.