EAST Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden has received clarification that civil service bosses have been urged to be as “flexible and sympathetic as possible” in accommodating working from home requests by staff.
Parental responsibilities and inadequate childcare arrangements had made returning to workplaces difficult, not just in the civil service, but in the wider community, Ms Sugden said.
The minister for finance, Conor Murphy, responded to an Assembly question by Ms Sugden by agreeing to publish guidance on the issue for concerned workers – many of whom had contacted the East Londonderry MLA about their working arrangements.
“I’m pleased that the minister agreed to support civil service workers who have parental responsibilities in working from home,” said the independent MLA.
“This will facilitate family life, as well as enabling people to get back to their important professional roles.
“Hopefully this guidance will give people clarity and peace of mind to workers worrying about how to juggle their parental and professional responsibilities.
“It is important that this flexibility within the civil service is mirrored by private sector businesses, where possible. Working parents of all kinds need support in being able to pursue their careers without detriment to their family life.”
As people got accustomed to this new way of working, it could be extended beyond COVID-19 and become “the new normal”, Ms Sugden said.
An additional 5,750 laptops, around 4,000 reconfigured desktops and 1,400 new mobile devices — tablets and smartphones — had been issued to allow staff to work from home, Mr Murphy said.
Flexitime arrangements also allowed staff working from home to manage how they arranged their working hours to balance commitments.
“The instruction to managers in the civil service is to be as flexible and as sympathetic as possible and to understand the challenges that people face,” he said. “I hope that that is the case. If it is not, we are more than happy to hear from them.”