Ministers have been ordered to send their civil servants back to the office after it emerged that up to three-quarters of staff are still working from home.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, has written to all secretaries of state to say they must send a “clear message” to officials about ending the work from home culture and urge them to ensure that taxpayer-funded offices are at “full capacity”.
On Monday night, Whitehall sources accused civil servants who refused to return to the office of failing to “pull their weight”, adding that the Covid pandemic could no longer be used as an excuse for staying away from the workplace.
Efforts to get civil servants back to the office have been hampered by unions pushing for further concessions on flexible working.
Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: “Now that we are learning to live with Covid and have lifted all legal restrictions in England, we must continue to accelerate the return of civil servants to office buildings to realise the benefits of face-to face, collaborative working and the wider benefits for the economy.
“To deliver this, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and I urge you to issue a clear message to civil servants in your department to ensure a rapid return to the office.”
Mr Rees-Mogg has sent ministers a league table that shows how many employees from each government department were going into the office on an average day during the week beginning April 4.
The Department for Education fared worst, with 25 per cent of staff going in each day on average while the rest worked remotely.
It was followed by the Department for Work and Pensions, where 27 per cent came into the office, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, where 31 per cent came in.
Meanwhile, the Department for International Trade had the highest number of people in the office that week, at 73 per cent, followed by the Department of Health at 72 per cent and Mr Rees-Mogg’s department, the Cabinet Office, at 69 per cent.
The Department for Education pointed to the week of April 4 being unrepresentative of its usual office attendance, as Parliament was in recess and many schools and colleges were off – meaning that more staff than usual were on leave.