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Home working is essential to cut our gender pay gap, Treasury mandarins claim

Hunt - Zara Farrar/HM Treasury
Hunt - Zara Farrar/HM Treasury

The Treasury has claimed that working from home is an essential part of its battle to cut the gender pay gap amid growing criticism of civil servants' refusal to return to the office.

Mandarins vowed to continue to “promote flexible working hours and hybrid working policies” as they take “targeted action to reduce and close the gender pay gap”, despite fears that the rise in remote work is fuelling poor decision making and a productivity crisis.

It came as separate figures showed hundreds of Treasury civil servants continued working from home even during the week of the Autumn Statement.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Business Secretary, said there was a correlation between poor productivity and home working in Whitehall.

He said: “There's been poor service from DVLA, the Passport Office, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Land Registry. All of them had high levels of working from home.”

Recommendations published alongside the Treasury's annual pay report highlighted home working as one of the key policies that it believes will drive down a 17pc gap between what men and women are paid at Britain's finance ministry.

The proposal was included alongside other goals, such as a target for “50pc representation at senior levels by 2024” and using annual pay reviews to address disparities between male and female staff.

Last year The Telegraph revealed that Treasury civil servants had been allowed to permanently work from home for most of the week, undermining then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak's push for office workers to return.

Separate data show just 75pc of Treasury staff were based on site during the week of the Autumn Statement, when Jeremy Hunt announced £55bn of tax rises and spending cuts in a bid to shore up the public finances. This figure was as low as 37pc at the start of this year.

Current Treasury job adverts describe flexible working as essential for ensuring that staff “enjoy a long-lasting career”.

Home working is explicitly offered to some of the Treasury's most senior employees, including in an advert for a director of operations at its Darlington hub, who will command a salary of almost £100,000.

The advert states the person will be responsible for “all people issues”, as well as Treasury sites, IT, security and “knowledge management”.

The Ministry of Defence, led by Ben Wallace, had the highest share of workers in theh MoD's main office, at 92pc in the week beginning November 14, followed by Michael Gove's Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Less than two thirds of staff at HMRC, which has been beset by accusations of poor performance, were in the office last week. However, this is much higher than the 11pc share reported at the start of this year.

Delays at HMRC have left taxpayers waiting several months for tax refunds, while the department has missed targets in several of its service areas.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Working from home is something that people may be allowed to do when things are working well.

“HMRC has a backlog of cases, is not answering telephone calls, and is not providing a good service to constituents. Until they provide a proper service to constituents, people should be working in the office.”

The Treasury has the biggest pay gap of all the UK's government departments. This is followed by the Cabinet Office at 16.6pc. HMRC came in third at 12.6pc, median gender gap figures show.

Mr Rees-Mogg made it clear that he wanted people in the office during his time as Government efficiency minister and Business Secretary, even leaving notes on people's desks encouraging them to come into the office.

Last year, Mr Sunak said remote working was “no substitute” for face-to-face work, saying being in the office helped him to climb the career ladder. “I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom,” he said.

The prime minister added it was “valuable” for “young people in particular” to work from the office rather than at home or on a hybrid basis.