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There is news that the UK government wants to reduce the civil service by about 65,000 which is almost 15% of the work force. This question is not about the politics of that, but about the practicalities.

My understanding is the a civil service should be a job for life type environment. Obviously you can always lose your job for poor performance reasons, but it should not be possible for purely political reasons. In the UK apparently the number of civil servants rose during the pandemic and they now want to cut it back. Does that mean the persons employed during covid are on short term contracts or how can they be cut? If they are on short term contracts, are they really counted as civil servants? In my view they are not.

So my question: how do you remove 15% of your workforce if you can't simply lay people off like a private company could?

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    Your post seems inconsistent. You say the question is not about politics but then talk about laying people off for purely political reasons. Have civil service employees been employed with the expectation that they have a job for life? Is the government constrained to never reduce their workforce?
    – doneal24
    Mar 1 at 20:50
  • I am not looking at the reasons for laying civil servants off. I would like to know how this is done on such a large scale in a small space of time in the UK. I ask because I am a civil servant myself (outside the UK) and my contract doesn't allow for me to be simply sacked. Pretty much the only way to be removed from my post would be gross incompetence at work and it would take years to prove and is therefore hardly ever done. So how do you remove 15% of a civil service in a matter of two or three years?
    – Phaedrus
    Mar 1 at 21:34

1 Answer 1

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  1. You can lay people off, as a private company would. The process of making someone redundant is well established in employment law. Public sector employees can be laid off by going through a redundancy procedure.

  2. You can allow natural wastage to take effect. People leave the civil service all the time. Some retire, some get better (or at least different) jobs in other sectors some leave to start a family or start a business. If you don't hire as many people, you will decrease the workforce.

There are a range of contracts for civil servants, at various levels. Not all are permanent. Some are probationary, some are fixed-term.

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  • Thanks for the comment. But there is a difference between public sector employees (teachers, doctors) and a civil service. Also, for me someone working for the civil service who is not on a permanent contract is not really a civil servant. He might work for the civil service, but there are many external, private sector employees who also work for civil services, but are obviously not civil servants in any way.
    – Phaedrus
    Mar 1 at 21:40
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    Being on a "permanent contract" does not mean "can't be laid off".
    – James K
    Mar 1 at 21:45
  • Is there any specific, fundamental reason why "civil service should be a job for life type environment", and not just a job like any other?
    – HK-51
    Mar 1 at 22:10
  • @ZOMVID-21 not necessarily, but that was not my question. Different countries have different concepts of what it means to be a civil servant and I am surprised that in the UK the government can simply decide to essentially sack 15% of the civil service just because it feels like it. For me employment as a civil servant is a serious appointment and "not just another job". I am a civil servant and my contract does not allow for redundancy. So whilst I can be dismissed for poor performance, I can't be made redundant due to restructuring.
    – Phaedrus
    Mar 1 at 22:17
  • @Phaedrus The strict UK definition of "civil servant" is complex & inconsistent (eg., prisons officers are civil servants, but police aren't). In theory civil servants have less protection than others since they serve "at her Majesty's pleasure". In practice, there's a scheme which is more generous than the statutory minimums, particularly for voluntary redundancies. civilservicepensionscheme.org.uk/media/bxekyhlr/… As per this answer states, it's unlikely all will be "sacked", just not replaced.
    – origimbo
    Mar 2 at 11:07

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