Civil Service in revolt after being told to spend more time at their desks

Mandarins in London get an extra hour off each week because of their longer commute

Whitehall’s most senior civil servants have been told they will have to work a little harder and take fewer holidays under plans to shake up their terms and conditions.

A letter from Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the Civil Service, to the most senior grades of mandarins reveals that in future Whitehall will no longer shut down for an extra day-and-a-half each year on top of public holidays. Civil servants will therefore lose their rights to so-called “privilege days” on top of their annual holiday.

Instead they will initially have the extra time wrapped in to their annual leave – but will lose it altogether when they are promoted.

In addition senior civil servants (SCS) working in London will be expected to work an extra hour a week – bringing an end to a tradition in the capital of reduced hours because of the longer commute.

There will also be a department-by-department review of occupational sick pay, and terms covering travel and expenses, conduct and discipline, and grievance and dispute.

In the letter passed to Civil Service World, Sir Bob said he wanted to reassure staff “that current SCS staff will see little change to their current terms”. But he then went on to outline a series of changes which unions warned would “reduce the package” available in the public sector at a time when wages were already falling below the private sector.

Whitehall will only shut down on the Queen’s official birthday and not Maundy Thursday and another half day. Working hours for SCS in London will also be increased by one hour to 37 hours per week plus a lunch hour.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union that represents senior-grade civil servants, told the magazine that the move was unfair. “If implemented, this will further reduce the package for new senior civil servants on appointment or promotion, at a time when the Government’s own evidence demonstrates that the reward package for the SCS is far below any comparable package in the rest of the public or private sector,” he said.

Lord Browne, the Government’s lead non-executive, warned in his annual report last month that constraints on public sector pay “pose particular challenges for talent management”, and called for an improvement in civil service incentives and rewards. However sources close to the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude denied this. “We really don’t have a problem with staff retention and if you look at the staff surveys you find levels of job satisfaction which the private sector would find hard to compete with.”

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