The Whitehall workers who STILL aren't back in the office

The Whitehall workers who STILL aren’t back in the office: Number of civil servants at their desks plummets despite Government pleas for their return

  • The largest drop was at the 800,000-square-foot Home Office headquarters
  • Only one per cent of Dept for Education’s London workforce seen entering office
  • The offices are understood to be running at a reduced capacity of 30 per cent
  • It  comes after officials investigated outbreak at Cabinet Office and Home Office

Just days ago civil servants were urged to return to the office by the Government – but far from leading by example, the number back at their desks in Whitehall has plummeted further.

MPs called on staff to show the way for the rest of Britain last week after a Mail investigation revealed ministerial offices were like ‘ghost towns’ with only a fraction of staff turning up.

But despite Boris Johnson stepping in to reassure employees it was safe to go back, the number of people arriving at ministerial offices yesterday morning was down by up to a third on last week.

It comes after health officials investigated a coronavirus outbreak at the Cabinet Office and Home Office last week (file photo of Home Office building, pictured)

The largest drop was at the 800,000-square-foot Home Office headquarters where only 94 staff arrived – 50 fewer than last Wednesday.

Meanwhile only one per cent of the Department for Education’s London workforce were observed entering its seven-floor offices, which held up to 2,000 staff before lockdown. The two dozen seen arriving yesterday was down from 34 last Thursday.

Offices are understood to be running at a reduced capacity of 30 per cent. But just 112 people were counted going in to work at a 100-year-old Government building that would normally house thousands of staff from five ministries, including the Treasury. Last week the average was 140.

Treasury staff, who must book a space 48 hours in advance if they want to go in, have reportedly been assured they will get two months’ notice before any collective return to work. Only the Department for Work and Pensions, which has space for around 1,700 workers, saw a slight uptick in staff turning up to work – from 31 last Thursday to 33 yesterday.

It comes after health officials investigated a coronavirus outbreak at the Cabinet Office and Home Office last week.

Workers are reportedly being reassured privately by some department bosses that they will be able to continue working from home this month and only need to come in if they want to.

MPs called on staff to show the way for the rest of Britain last week after a Mail investigation revealed ministerial offices were like ‘ghost towns’ (file photo of an open plan office)

There are growing fears city centre shops and eateries which rely on custom from office workers face ruin if more employees are not encouraged to return. Last week Alex Chisholm, second-in-command at the Civil Service, told departments it was time to ‘change the default that civil servants should work from home and accelerate the return to the workplace from August’.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union representing civil servants, said the Government should not be using officials to ‘virtue-signal’ to the private sector.

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are consulting closely with employees on ending the default that civil servants should work from home and have ensured workplaces are Covid-secure so civil servants can return safely.’

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