POLL: Should council workers be allowed to remote work from abroad?

POLL: Should council workers be allowed to remote work from abroad?

Hendon Town Hall with a man drinking a bottle of water in the foreground.
Barnet Council, in north London, approved the most requests for remote work from foreign locations. (Alamy)

Councils across the UK have given hundreds of employees permission to work remotely overseas in locations including Spain, Dubai, and the Philippines, according to new research.

Local authorities have sanctioned more than 1,358 remote work requests from foreign locations, with approvals jumping from 73 in 2020-21 to 708 in 2022-23, according to analysis from the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Barnet Council, in north London, approved 286 requests in three years, which was the most by any local authority.

Merton, south London, was next on the list with 251, while Islington, north London, was third with 237 approvals.

Yahoo News UK has launched a poll to find out if you think council workers be allowed to work remotely from abroad?

Who is against the idea?

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt at the Infected Blood Inquiry in London where he is being questioned on the Government's response to the use of infected blood and blood products and the question of compensation. Picture date: Friday July 28, 2023. (Photo by Jordan Pettitt/PA Images via Getty Images)
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt prefers workers to be in the office. (Getty)

The TaxPayers' Alliance has criticised councils for allowing employees to work from overseas.

The organisation's chief executive John O'Connell said: “Hard-pressed households will be shocked by the number of public sector staff working from abroad.

“Residents forking out record rates expect officials to be using the office space taxpayers are footing the bill for. Council staff should get off the sun loungers and get back to town halls.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said employers should decide what approach they take but suggested working in the office should be the preferred option.

"The default will be you work in the office unless there's a good reason not to be in the office,” he told the British Chambers of Commerce’s Global Annual Conference in May.

"I worry about the loss of creativity when people are permanently working from home and not having those water cooler moments, where they bounce ideas off each other.

"I think that's why businesses are saying they want people back unless there's a reason."

Meanwhile, the government has said councils need to figure out the most cost-effective way of managing where their employees work.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities added: “Wherever their staff work from, councils must ensure that their services remain efficient and easily accessible to the public while also being cost-effective to the taxpayer.”

Read more: Flexible Working Bill: What rights the new law gives you (Yahoo News UK)

Who is for the idea?

Young woman freelancer traveler working online using laptop and enjoying the beautiful nature landscape with mountain view at sunrise
Remote and hybrid working have been found to offer numerous benefits for workers and businesses. (Getty)

Both Barnet and Islington councils have defended themselves and have said flexible working is important.

Barnet Council said: “Flexible working is crucial for recruiting and retaining the right staff, and we only allow working from abroad for limited periods and where we are satisfied it won't affect the employee's ability to do their job and productivity.'

Islington Council added: “Islington Council recognises the importance of flexible working options to provide our staff with greater choice and flexibility.”

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Councils have long experience of managing staff remotely and it is a matter for individual councils to agree where staff can work from depending on their role and ensuring the needs of the business are met.”

Remote and hybrid working have been found to offer numerous benefits for workers and businesses.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data from February 2022 showed over three-quarters (78%) of individuals who worked from home in any capacity reported an enhanced work-life balance.

The same data also showed almost half of those who worked from home in some capacity reported that it improved well-being (47%).

Businesses said improved staff wellbeing was a key reason for them to increase home working in the future, according to a brief from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Read more: Is hybrid working here to stay? (ONS)