WHICH UK Government department has the worst record for remote working? It’s the one responsible for work, figures suggest.

Earlier this week The National revealed how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been accused of putting staff at risk by requiring them to travel to their offices and make “courtesy calls” about getting claimants back to work.

We revealed how the civil servants’ union PCS is in talks with DWP bosses over the work it regards as non-essential. A whistleblower told how staff are “frustrated” about the lack of remote working.

Now we reveal how new questions have emerged about the DWP’s treatment of staff during lockdown.

Thirteen Westminster departments from Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to the Treasury were asked how many of their staff had formal arrangements to work from home during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The answers reveal a startling disparity between teams.

This ranges from 100% provision at the Scotland Office and 99% at the Treasury to “approximately 20%” at the DWP.

The department – which has been led by Thérèse Coffey since September – has around 80,000 staff.

They recently processed an unprecedented number of claims as two million people sought support to tide them through the lockdown and economic slowdown.

However, DWP chiefs face claims that they have failed to support the workforce by failing to provide remote working options.

The National:

Data on departmental remote working rates was gathered by Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Margaret Ferrier.

More than 90% of those at England’s Department of Health and Social Care have access to remote working, as have 100% at the country’s Department for Education and 99% at BEIS.

The Ministry of Defence and Home Office said they did not have the data, while the Cabinet Office could only say that “the vast majority” of its team was working from home.

The answers came in between May 5 and 11, with the DWP responding earlier on April 28 – almost one month ago. At that time, DWP under-secretary Mims Davies said: “Working from home data is not recorded on our HR systems. However, the number of staff logging into the department’s computer system via a secure remote connection shows that approximately 20% of staff were working from home.

“We have now provided an additional 6656 computers to enable working from home. We will deploy a further 6000 in the next fortnight.”

When The National asked for an update yesterday, a spokesperson directed us to a parliamentary answer given to Tory MP David Jones on May 11, which stated that the DWP is “committed to supporting everyone”, and that there are technical and equipment barriers to remote working.

However, it went on: “The department has procured significantly more portable computers to expand our home working capacity. Colleagues who require specialist IT equipment for accessibility reasons are able to order this for use at home and those who are in the vulnerable or shielding category can have it delivered to their home address.”

The National:

Ferrier commented: “It is perhaps unsurprising that the department that sanctions people for being late to appointments should be the one that appears to be the least flexible to home working.

"Employers should be facilitating working from home as far as possible during the coronavirus pandemic, and UK Government departments should be leading by example.”