It is understood that “flexitime” is popular among staff in Whitehall departments such as the Department for Transport and the Treasury.
It allows them to work, for example, 1pm to 4pm one day, and 10am to 2pm the next with certain core hours.
Despite the generous deal, 12 of the 19 main Whitehall departments were still less than 67 per cent full at the start of July, with just four in ten officials back behind their desks in the Foreign Office and both the Home Office and HMRC barely half full .
The UK’s average week of full-time work is 42.5 hours, according to a report by the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat – far more than the Civil Service norm of 37.5. Serbia had the longest at 48.3 hours, while Denmark had the shortest at 38.3.
Civil servants have boasted of the work-life balance “flexitime” affords, as well as extensive overtime payments if they have to stay late.
‘My working day has no rigid form’
While the Cabinet Office said strict approval processes are used, one official in a Whitehall department admitted their day is “very, very flexible, to the extent that it has no rigid form”.
“I go to the gym in the middle of the day for two hours and nobody has ever asked where I am,” they told The Telegraph. “I sometimes don’t come in on Fridays because I know my manager isn’t there.”
Another civil servant said: “I live for the Civil Service flexitime contract, which means that instead of my life revolving around work, work revolves around my life.”
But the latest continued refusal of civil servants to ditch flexible working has stoked fury amid continued backlogs at the Passport Office, the DVLA and economic crises at home and abroad.
Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley and a member of the Common Sense Group of Tory parliamentarians, criticized how officials “can’t be bothered” to turn up to work.
“It’s nice work if you can get it, isn’t it? Right across the board in the Government machinery, whether it’s passports, driving licenses, visas, the whole thing has been pretty poor,” he said.
“If all of these people were performing to a high standard and nobody was having to wait at all, then fair enough, but we can’t have these kinds of working practices when the end product for so many people who rely on them is so poor.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman said “the vast majority” of civil servants have different arrangements to “flexitime”, but it “allows the Civil Service to attract a range of talented and capable people who may have caring responsibilities or disabilities”.