The DWP is ramping up the move to homeworking for its staff amidst concerns about the safety of workplaces in a pandemic, but what will this mean for claimant confidentiality?
The PCS union has been pushing for more staff to be allowed to work from home because there has been a sharp increase in Covid infections amongst DWP workers. This has resulted in some offices having to shut down partially or fully.
The DWP has now agreed to have 80% of all staff working from home, including all work coaches.
The department is distributing technical kit to around 3,500 staff a week to reach this goal.
Whilst the safety of staff is obviously paramount, that does not mean that the confidentiality of claimants should be compromised in any way.
Benefits and Work readers are already familiar with incidents in which their claimant confidentiality has clearly been breached by PIP assessors working from home with other people in the room.
Claimants have heard laughter, whispered conversations, mobile phones being answered and children talking whilst they were discussing deeply personal issues relating to their health.
Whilst PCS acknowledges that some staff may not be able to work from home because of such issue as children being off school, it is not at all clear that this is an issue that the DWP will take into account in any meaningful way.
If the DWP have set a target of 80% of all staff working from home, including all work coaches, it does not sound as if serious consideration has been given to how impractical this will be for many people in accommodation shared with family or housemates.
Benefits and Work would like to hear from anyone who experiences possible breaches of confidentiality as a result if these changes.
More details on the move to homeworking are available from the PCS website.