Flexible working is here to stay

Flexible working is ‘here to stay’, according to a government minister.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng seemed to contradict fellow cabinet members, albeit briefing newspapers on an anonymous basis, when he said that the government should not be telling firms where their employees should be working.

Instead, Kwarteng argued that businesses are best placed to decide themselves when it comes to returning to the office or continuing flexible working practices.

However, he also confirmed that he would encourage civil servants in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to come back to the office later this year.

Weekend papers carried anonymous comments from ministers who are clearly against working from home continuing into the autumn months when the pandemic is expected to continue its current decline.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Kwarteng said:

“I think flexible working is something that is here to stay.

“I think it’s up to employers and employees to come to their own arrangements, depending on the needs of the company, the needs of the business.

“I don’t think it makes sense to have a government diktat telling people exactly how many hours they’re going to spend in the office and exactly how many hours they’re going to spend at home.”

Government policy on flexible working has been…flexible!

Last summer, as infection rates were falling, the government was keen to encourage workers back to the office, going as far as briefing to suggest those who continued working from home risked losing their jobs.

The government then changed its messaging as Covid-19 cases started to rise again.

The government campaign against working from home appears to be starting again, with an anonymous cabinet minister telling the Daily Mail that those working from home should be paid less.

Another anonymous minister told The Times that people working from home would be less likely to gain promotion.

However, the Conservative party manifesto encourages flexible working, and the on-the-record comments from the business secretary support this.