Fórsa has welcomed the publication of a new Government ‘Blended Working Policy Statement,’ which would see the civil service switch from pandemic-related remote working provisions to long-term ‘blended working’ arrangements between September 2021 and March 2022.
The union said it was ready to engage immediately to reach agreement on the details. But its general secretary Kevin Callinan warned that the initiative should be capable of rapid roll-out across the entire public service, rather than being confined to Government departments and agencies.
Kevin said most of the principles and objectives laid out in the Government statement chimed with Fórsa’s approach, which was set out in a claim submitted to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in March 2021.
“We have waited a long time for this development and we now need immediate discussions to agree the detail, build on the momentum of the past 18 months, and agree a framework fit to be rolled out across the public service.
“I particularly welcome the statement’s commitment to a consistent approach across the civil service, and to transparency and fairness on access to remote working. This emerged as the number one issue for public servants in a large opinion survey conducted by Fórsa last summer.
“We stand ready to engage with the objective of agreeing a clear and consistent public service approach to remote or blended working, based on principles of fair access, adequate employee protections, and robust measures to underpin continued public service quality and productivity,” he said.
The Government statement, which envisages discussions with Fórsa and other civil service unions, says blended working can deliver flexibility for employees and employers while supporting the delivery of high quality public services.
It says staff should have a right to request blended working, but that employers have a right to refuse. While this principle is accepted, the union will be seeking transparency over the criteria used to decide whether remote working is appropriate – as well as consistency in implementation of the criteria.
The Government statement also envisages blended work arrangements, with staff spending at least some of their time in the workplace. This is likely to be welcomed by most civil and public servants as Fórsa’s 2020 survey found most wanted to work two or three days remotely.
The Government statement says that some element of remote working will continue for the rest of this year. But, subject to this, it says the civil service will “seek to commence a gradual return to the office, as appropriate, from September 2021.” There would then be a transition to long-term blended working arrangements in the six months that follow.
However, minister for public expenditure Michael McGrath said the envisaged “gradual return to the office” would be decided by each individual organisation, and that the pace of the transition would be dependent on public health advice “and the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Read the Government statement HERE.
Read Fórsa’s remote working claim HERE.