Right to single-occupancy offices to end under civil service reform plan

Action plan will increase opening hours in areas dealing with the public

The plan calls for changes to the use of office space arising from more flexible ways of working including blended working. Photograph: iStock

The plan calls for changes to the use of office space arising from more flexible ways of working including blended working. Photograph: iStock

 

The Government is seeking to introduce greater flexibility in working arrangements, to increase opening hours for offices dealing with the public and to end the automatic right for staff to have single-occupancy offices as part of new reforms for the civil service.

A new action plan for implementation by the end of next year, which has been drawn up by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, also includes the expansion of existing arrangements to allow staff to move between different parts of the wider public service.

The reforms which cover more than 40,000 staff across the civil service form part of the new public service pay agreement.

The new action plan, published on Monday, also calls for co-operation with greater levels of automation and digital innovation.

This would include progress on automation/online claims for jobseeker service in the Department of Social Protection and the introduction of digital signatures in the Public Appointment Service, the Property Registration Authority, the Department of Transport and the Department of Housing and Local Government.

Digitalisation

As part of reforms to the operation of the Oireachtas, the new plan wants to see the introduction of a digital order paper for Dáil Éireann, the digitalisation of manual tasks associated with Oireachtas committees as well as the processes of laying documents before both Houses.

It also wants to introduce “memory-based translation system” in relation to the business of the Dáil.

The plan wants to see the introduction of new or revised flexible working arrangements “including agreement on blended working policies and associated changes to work practices”.

It wants to review, refine and expand functions and services provided at Intreo offices in the Department of Social Protection.

The plan calls for the introduction of increased opening hours where need is identified and agreed. It suggests that initially this could involve customer-facing areas operated by the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Justice, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Property Registration Authority.

The plan also calls for changes to the use of office space arising from more flexible ways of working including blended working.

It points to the introduction of open-plan accommodation for all grades and questions the designation of particular work stations for individual staff.

The plan calls for “optimising office floor plates through no automatic right to single-occupancy office for any grade while having due regard for the effectiveness of blended working”.

The plan also says the new reforms may involve “co-location across organisations when required”.

It suggests there may be office reconfiguration/rationalisation in the Department of Justice and potentially elsewhere.

The plan also seeks co-operation with the replacement of legacy IT systems in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment including in relation to employment permits, export licensing and the Labour Court.

The Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath told the Oireachtas Committee on Finance last week that a reform agenda was part of the overall new public service agreement.

He said each sector would produce and publish reform plans “that will demonstrate delivery each year and payment of a one per cent sectoral fund will be conditional on the delivery of actual reforms”.

Similar plans

The Civil Service reform action plan is the first to be published under the provisions of the public service agreement. Similar plans in other areas are expected to follow over the next fortnight or so.

Work has been under way over the last week or so regarding the proposed work practice reforms in the health service to which trade unions had originally objected.

The Irish Times reported last month that management wanted staff to provide greater flexibility in working arrangements as part of proposed reforms linked to the new public service pay agreement.

Under the proposals, health management also sought staff to facilitate some services being made available over a full day.

Where necessary, they would also like to see redeployment arrangements - introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic - continue “as service requires”. This would be done in order to match demand for services across hospital sites and geographic locations.

The draft proposals tabled by health service management also involved staff co-operating with key elements of the Sláintecare reform programme. These would include projects aimed at shifting the delivery of care to community settings and the introduction of new approaches to chronic disease management and the care of older people.

The proposals specifically sought full co-operation with the opening of a new acute forensic psychiatric facility in north Dublin which will replace the existing Central Mental Hospital