Europe

Civil servant moves staff to two-day office week so 'women aren't spoken over'

A top civil servant isn’t making her staff return to the office full-time – as she thinks it will help women speak up more.

Sarah Healey, the permanent secretary for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the London Tech Week conference yesterday that she is allowing workers to stay at home for three days a week.

The mum-of-three also hailed working from home as a ‘very, very good thing’ for spending more time with her children.

The Telegraph reports she said: ‘I find big meetings with lots of people are most effectively done online because you can see better who wants to speak.

‘In fact I have noticed this as well, as a woman sometimes struggling with that: “Can I get my word in?”‘

She added working from home allows her to use her Peloton exercise bike at home, as well as saving time on commuting.

Ms Healey made the suggestion of a hybrid approach, noting the office is important for young people who have spent the pandemic working ‘in the corner of their bedroom’.

Millions of workers in the private sector have returned to the office in recent weeks following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

But many public sector workers have not been made to go back in full-time, and more than 100 Government buildings could be sold as a result of staff working from home.

New plans were unveiled by ministers yesterday which could allow more than two million workers to request to work from home from day one of a new job.

Current rules only allow staff to request flexible working from six months into a role, but the pandemic has changed the way many companies work.

Firms will still be allowed to refuse the requests if they have ‘good business reasons’ to do so, but hope negotiations can take place between the employee and the employer.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: ‘Empowering workers to have more say over where and when they work makes for more productive businesses and happier employees.

‘It was once considered a ”nice to have”, but by making requests a day-one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country.

‘A more engaged and productive workforce, a higher calibre of applicants and better retention rates – the business case for flexible working is compelling.’

A range of flexible working methods would be included in the new plans, including job-sharing, flexitime, compressed hours and phased retirement.

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