It is understood that “flex time” is popular with staff in Whitehall departments such as the Department for Transport and the Treasury.
It allows them to work, for example, 13:00 to 16:00 one day, and 10:00 to 14:00 the next with certain core hours.
Despite the generous deal, 12 of the 19 key Whitehall departments were still less than 67 per cent full at the start of July, with only four in ten civil servants remaining behind their desks at the Foreign Office and both the Home Office and HMRC barely half full.
Britain’s average full-time working week is 42.5 hours, according to a report by the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat – far more than the civil service norm of 37.5. Serbia had the longest with 48.3 hours, while Denmark had the shortest with 38.3.
Officials have boasted about the work-life balance that “flex time” provides, as well as extensive overtime payments if they have to be late.
‘My working day has no rigid shape’
While the Cabinet Office said strict approval processes are used, a Whitehall department official admitted their day is “very, very flexible, to the extent that it doesn’t have any rigid shape”.
“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 flextime contract, which means that instead of my life being about work, work is about my life.”
But the latest continued refusal by civil servants to ditch flexible working has sparked fury continued backlog at the passport officeDVLA and economic crises at home and abroad.
Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley and a member of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs, criticized how civil servants “don’t bother” to turn up for 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, driver’s licenses, visas, it’s all been pretty bad,” he said.
“If all these people performed to a high standard and nobody had to wait at all, then fair enough, but we can’t have those kinds of working methods 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 arrangements other than “flextime”, but it “enables the Civil Service to attract a range of talented and skilled people who may have caring responsibilities or disabilities”.