The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, TD, today, Tuesday, 13th July 2021 published a policy statement on blended working in the Civil Service.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 emergency in early 2020, the Civil Service like other sectors has, in the main, been working in a fully remote environment. Subject to changes to public health advice, some degree of remote working will continue to be a feature for the Civil Service for the remainder of 2021.
Looking beyond this exceptional period, the Department of Enterprise,Trade and Employment earlier this year published Making Remote Work: National Remote Work Strategy. The Civil Service Management Board has produced the Policy Statement being published today to provide broad strategic direction to individual organisations in the Civil Service as they consider development of tailored policies on ‘blended working’ that are appropriate to them and their employees, in line with the National Strategy. The Policy Statement has been informed by the experience of remote working and maintaining service delivery and Civil Service operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the publication of this Policy Statement, Minister McGrath said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a sudden and seismic change in working arrangements for everyone. Despite the challenges, civil servants have adapted swiftly and with great success to this new working environment and the requirement to work remotely. In doing so, their efforts have helped to ensure the continuity of key services to the public and business over the last year and a half.
"While the pandemic is not yet behind us, it is timely to consider what the future of the workplace looks like. We are committed to implementing models of working for the future that can provide flexibility to both employees and their employers in a manner that supports the continued delivery of high quality services to Government, the public and business.” Commenting further, the Minister said:
"I welcome the development, by the Civil Service Management Board, of this Policy Statement which charts a path forward in relation to an issue that is hugely important for employers and employees across the civil service. There is much detail yet to be worked through. My Department is progressing a framework document that will facilitate a consistent approach to blended working arrangements across the Civil Service. Of course, it will be essential to get the input of employee representatives to this framework and my officials will take forward this engagement in the coming weeks.”
Individual Departments / Offices will finalise and progressively roll out their long-term blended working policies and implementation plans over the period from September 2021 to March 2022.
During this period, a gradual return to the office may commence - to be decided on by each individual organisation having regard to their operational requirements. However, the pace of this transition will continue to be dependent on public health advice and the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Notes for Editors:
The Civil Service Management Board (CSMB) is made up of all Secretaries General and Heads of Offices, and is chaired by the Secretary General to the Government.
Timeline (subject to public health advice)
September 2021 – finalise detailed policy framework with employee representatives
September 2021 – March 2022 – Transitional Period – possible gradual return to the office in line with public health advice. In parallel, Departments and Offices will finalise and commence roll-out of their individual Blended Working Policies.
April 2022 onward – all long-term Departmental blended working policies finalised and rolled out.
The key objectives of a Blended Working Policy Framework are to:
- Ensure the Civil Service will continue to deliver high quality services to Government, the public and business.
- Deliver on the Programme for Government commitment to move to 20% remote/home working.
- Enable Departments and Offices to formulate tailored approaches that best meet the needs of individual organisations and their employees, within the overall Framework.
- Ensure the Civil Service remains an employer of choice by widening talent pools with potential access to blended working options.
- Support employee engagement, innovation and productivity by providing options for additional flexibility, alongside the suite of other flexible working options the Civil Service currently provides (e.g. Shorter Working Year, Career Breaks, Worksharing, etc), and by offering options for reduced commutes, more affordable housing choices and improved wellbeing for all employees.
- Over time, leveraging digital technology in the way we work, alleviating accommodation pressures and potentially reducing the cost of office space for the Civil Service.
- Support the new Public Sector Decarbonisation Strategy, which has set a public sector decarbonisation target of at least 50% by 2030.
- Deliver economic benefits by aligning with some of the aims of Our Rural Future – Rural Development Policy 2021 – 2025, and wider Project Ireland 2040 objectives for sustainable regional, rural and urban development.
The detailed Blended Working Policy Framework being advanced to underpin this broad policy statement will include common principles to apply across the Civil Service. This will ensure a consistency of approach aligned within a broad framework which individual Departments and Offices can adapt to business needs and local demand. While acknowledging this is an iterative process, the following common principles will underpin the operation of blended working in the Civil Service from the outset:
- Supporting the delivery of public services;
- Transparency and fairness;
- Regard for mental health, work-life balance / integration and the need for a safe and productive working environment;
- An evolving policy that reflects new ways of working;
- The right to request and to refuse;
- Suitability of role;
- The gradual use of shared versus dedicated workspaces.
Claire Godkin - Press Officer, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform - 085 806 3969, email@example.com