No need for return to offices

18 May 2021

More staff and customers are being asked to return to jobcentres for face to face interviews despite working successfully from home for a year

PCS has opposed DWP’s plans to extend services in jobcentres as we do not believe it is safe due to Covid or that the necessary risk assessments and safety measures have been put in place.

Many jobcentre staff have been successfully working from home for a year now and PCS members have been telling us that they are not convinced by DWP’s arguments that a return to offices, and face to face interviews, is necessary now or safe.

Last autumn after a PCS campaign, DWP signed up to “empowering” work coaches, enabling them to decide how best to progress their own caseload and decide who to meet for face to face appointments. However, many PCS members who are work coaches are telling us that their line managers are putting pressure on them to return to the office and to change phone appointments to face to face appointments.

An email sent to staff by management at one jobcentre has requested that “any claimants that are currently booked as a phone but are in a face to face slot, can they be rebooked for a face to face appointment”.

A work coach in Wales told us: “We have been told that all work coaches have to be in the office 60% of their time, regardless of whether they have face to face meetings or not. 60% in the office won’t be Covid safe.”

Another member said: “I have not been in my jobcentre office for over a year. My manager wants me back in the office 2 out of my 3 days per week. I do not deal with 18-24 year olds, the self-employed or Job Seeker’s Allowance at present. I have successfully completed new claims over the telephone.”

Members are also considering how customers will feel about being asked to attend appointments in person. One member said: “I personally don't feel that staff and customers should be forced to attend the office until the pandemic is fully under control, and don't feel that I could justify the decision to my customers.”

PCS is running a consultative ballot of members working in jobcentres, which closes on 21 May.

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