The Government Legal Department’s chiefs were urged to apologise over pay and morale at an all-staff call, it has emerged.
Nearly 500 staff dialled into a meeting with the GLD’s executive team on 1 July. Following a freedom of information request by the Gazette, the GLD confirmed that 13 pre-submitted questions received from staff were shared with the executive team for review and response ahead of the call.
The questions reveal discontent over a wide range of matters.
The GLD board was asked to apologise for the ‘terrible way’ staff had been treated over pay and admit morale was at an all-time low. Staff wanted to know why the department was ‘so desperate to force people back to the office when so many of our people are happier, healthier and more productive’ working from home.
Staff also asked if treasury solicitor Susanna McGibbon was prepared to lead by example and move from North London to Darlington, the location for a grade 7 qualified lawyer job recently advertised.
The 13 questions were:
1. No real pay rises for 10 yrs, inflation due to hit 4% this year and we are on a pay freeze, being asked to do more for less. How will GLD hold onto their staff?
2. Will the board apologise for the terrible way its staff have been treated in relation to pay and assure its staff there is some sliver of hope for the future?
3. Is the GLD board prepared to have the courage to admit its staff are outrageously underpaid, morale is at all time lows, and the situation is not sustainable?
4. What is the current position with the roll out of a single IT platform and when is MS Teams going to be rolled out to those on GLD IT?
5. Why do ICT launch and implement new changes every Monday and only communicate this to staff on a Friday eg. Microsoft Edge with no LEGAL team engagement?
6. Will GLD set SCS targets for socio-economic background given the SMC Labyrinth report and raise the SCS disability target in line with the UK population (20%)?
7. Are there any future plans for better managing peaks in workload which don't rely on staff working excessive hours without adequate compensation?
8. Why has the Business Transformation Plan taken so long to mobilise and initiate (and communicate?)
9. Does GLD plan to follow our clients in leaving the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme? If so, can the cost savings be passed down to staff diversity networks?
10. Why is there so much overlap and change coming from GLD centre? It's unclear what's happening and how these changes are affecting me overall in my job.
11. Is Susanna prepared to lead by example, and move from Islington (London) to Darlington (County Durham), the location a G7 [grade 7] Lawyer job was recently advertised for?
12. Why is GLD so desperate to force people back to the office when so many of our people are happier, healthier and more productive WFH?
13. Will GLD take a flexible approach to future ways of working, and only limit this flexibility for good reasons, in a similar way to flexible working legislation?
The Government Legal Department, which employs 1,400 solicitors and barristers, provides a legal service to the majority of central government departments. It shares a building in Petty France, London, with the Ministry of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service and Law Commission.
Staff are likely to be expected to work 40% of their contracted hours in the office after Covid restrictions are lifted. The department also aims to move 40% of its workforce outside London by 2024, in line with wider government plans to move civil servants out of the capital.
A GLD spokesperson told the Gazette: 'We are continuing to work hard on improving our overall reward package for staff within the tight constraints placed upon us. This is, and will remain, a key priority over the coming period. We also continue to monitor factors including the wider legal labour market and recruitment to make an informed decision on any future pay business cases.'
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