(CNS): Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has introduced formal policies for both flexible and remote working for civil servants. Despite concerns that the public sector is not doing much to address the traffic problems, with a return to significant congestion levels last week, the civil service boss said the policies introducing this shift were proving successful and that the civil service was working with Cabinet ministers to be part of the solution.

At the start of the second week of September he estimated that around half of the staff members were in the Government Administration Building on Elgin Avenue but he expected this had increased last week.  

“Our main focus is to deliver outstanding support to ministers and our customers while being flexible in our working arrangements,” he told CNS in response to queries about the plan to continue post COVID-19 lockdown with remote working and to introduce more flexible hours. “We are working with ministers to be part of the solution and will continue to be innovative in our approach to addressing the traffic congestion.”

In 2019 the number of people working in the core civil service or for public authorities was around 6,500, which was already a significant percentage of the workforce. But following the departure of thousands of private sector work permit holders and contract workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, public servants now make up an even larger portion of the morning and evening commuters.

The congestion is worse now that children are back in school and private sector workers are back in office, so permitting public sector staff who are able to work at home to do so or staggering their start and finish times should lessen the traffic jams, especially from the Eastern Districts.

According to the new policies, the use of flexitime and remote working arrangements will be “assessed against how well it optimizes customer outcomes” and the balance between delivery of services and work-life gains, such as traffic avoidance.

Both policies were introduced on 9 September and remain in effect until further notice. The change from being in the office from Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, will not just alleviate traffic issues but it is expected to help employees manage their daily hours to balance the needs of the business of government with the needs of their own family lives.

Neither policy is meant to replace the traditional office-based working schedule but both provide avenues for public servants to improve their working lives, provided they satisfy the necessary criteria and are able to stay productive.

“Remote working is not expected to be the exclusive way our teams work; rather, a healthy mix should exist for work produced within the office and from outside the office,” the policy states. The policies also note that the availability of flexible working hours is not intended to change the regular hours of operation of the civil service

The policy documents indicate that neither remote working nor flexitime will be appropriate for all staff, such as those whose duties require them to be in the workplace, as well as staff already working shifts, uniform services and teachers.

But many other public servants will be able to stagger or even split their five days, for example choosing to work from 7:30am to 4:00pm on Monday to Friday, or working from 7:00am to noon and 3:30pm to 6:00pm. Another option is to compress the week or fortnight, working four or nine longer days over a week or two, and then take a day off.

Civil servants wishing to work flexible hours or work from home should apply in writing to their manager, who will then assess whether or not the change would maintain or enhance the operation of the relevant department and if the employee’s work performance would be adversely affected. The decision to approve or deny remains entirely in the hands of the managers, the policy indicates.

See the policy documents in the CNS Library

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