How can I return to office duty of care?

It was good service to be asked at our station to discuss plans for a reciprocal return-to-office date with your union. Am I supposed to believe that this is strictly an administrative time-slip scheme aimed at protecting managers from the high cost of employee cover?

Don’t be too quick to assume. “Good service” is corporate language for “we’re trying to make life difficult for you”. What do you think they’re going to do? Call and say: “Well, mate, we’ve been unable to move you off this money-off holiday allowance and you’re going to be stuck with it for the rest of your life.”

So my first reaction to your email was that it seems almost as bad as the idea that it’s almost as bad as the idea that you wouldn’t get to work. As if by committee. What’s more, the fact that you say it’s a return-to-office date suggests you’ve been left hanging for months.

Yet the principle behind it is on the level. We worked, then had five years off. We tried to work, then had five years off. Now the new plan – dubbed a “benefits package” – is going to hand you an unsolicited “back to work” package within two weeks of redundancy.

Am I naive to think we’ll return to office “duty of care”?

That seems unlikely. You’re telling me management will still have your good offices, your special access and your free movement of handshakes and smiles.

It’s more likely that you’re going to be stuck trying to survive in the pebble-like island of self-employment, and hopefully you’ll manage to stay out of the puddle, the Croydon rain, and the blackpool deluge too.

However, there is still room for optimism. Your union sounds reasonably interested in the idea of a return-to-office date for us losers on the edge.

To help, I’ve researched one of the more radical versions of a return-to-office day. Britain’s first consecutive – all-male – walkout on 14 December 1979, which was almost as bad as a return-to-office date, was called off after security staff were allegedly threatened with deportation if it went ahead. Plus, most of the male teachers involved had so-called ex-directory numbers or they were registered as blind.

However, a return-to-office day for us “freed” office staff would probably be delayed by the union’s logic. You’d have to be booked in to work, then a retro computer register would have to be updated and signed off by human resources. All while life darts along so happily on the office sidestreets.

First of all, everyone needs a spray of biological spray during that time. I bet you wouldn’t want to do it a second time.

This column is for Guardian Professionals by Christian Outram, a trainee journalist

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A manager suggested that there were plans to close off a stream of redundancy payments at the end of the year.

Don’t be put off by the blank wording – if the TUC has given its full blessing, you’ll have no choice but to follow through. But there is a second option.

“Have you considered going on your own before the end of the year?” the manager said. “Under the role of manager, there are no benefits because there is no permanent job.”

The implication here, as the candidate made clear, was that after a couple of years off, you might be very happy where you are.

Where’s the logic in that? If your only worry is that you might have to stay in the office for the duration of the next recession, can you imagine the GP being called to remove your prescriptions so that they can be spent on a “back to work” allowance?

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