UK government rehires redundant officials in ‘busy periods’

By on 03/09/2015 | Updated on 25/09/2020

The UK government plans to recruit former civil servants to help its remaining staff cope with high workloads, a leaked Cabinet Office document shows.

Retired and redundant civil servants are being re-recruited to government jobs under a pilot scheme launched by the Cabinet Office, the Guardian newspaper reports today.

Some of these people are being re-employed using zero-hours contracts, the leaked document titled ‘Re-employing Retired Civil Servants’ shows.

The 60-page document, which was sent to management staff of several government departments last month, outlines the benefits of recruiting retired staff during busy periods, as well as those who have previously been made redundant.

“This scheme is primarily aimed at retired civil servants who may wish to supplement their pension income, however, departments may also want to consider re-employing former civil servants, who are not retired,” the document states.

Managers can recruit former staff using two types of recommended agreement, ad hoc contracts or annualised agreements, the paper says.

“The use of ad hoc contracts is appropriate when staff are required to work for brief periods at short notice, in situations when workloads are impossible to accurately predict,” the document says.

However, managers are warned that such contracts should be used with caution to ensure that they do not give a worker so many hours that they can claim to be permanently employed: “Departments should take care to avoid scheduling hours that may create a situation where employees are entitled to claim permanent status, and the rights that are associated with it,” it says.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office confirmed the use of zero-hours contracts, but added that the re-employment of retired civil servants is not current government policy.

“It is being piloted as a way of providing experienced temporary staff at times when teams may be under seasonal pressure,” he said, without specifying which government departments have been involved.

“Re-employed civil servants will not fill posts that have been vacated by staff who have left due to redundancy.

“They are being re-employed to supplement existing staff levels when required, not replace them.”

The revelation comes after more than 80,000 full-time civil servants have left their jobs since 2010 with a similar number expected to leave during the current parliament.

The move has been criticised by trade unions.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union – the UK’s largest unions and represents civil and public servants in central government, said: “This is as close as we’re likely to get to ministers admitting openly they’ve cut too many civil servants and it is a damning indictment of Tory austerity.

And Dave Penman, general secretary of senior civil service union the FDA, said: “None of this would be necessary if they’d negotiated and planned properly in the first place instead of wilfully slashing jobs to meet arbitrary spending cuts targets, at great expense to the taxpayer and the people who lost their livelihoods.”

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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