The Times has published an undercover investigation into DVLA, where backlogs mean people are having to wait months to get driving tests, and discovered that hundreds of employees have done no work on full pay for significant periods during the past two years as managers boast of watching Netflix at the public’s expense.
Most of the Government agency’s 6,200 staff were sent home during the first lockdown but 3,400 of them were put on paid special leave without having to work at all, figures show.
There were still almost 2,000 staff on paid special leave months later, with no expectation that they would do any work even from home. In nine of the past 24 months there have been more than 500 staff officially not working, either on paid special leave or on strike.
An undercover Times reporter worked at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency last month as millions of drivers have been affected by record backlogs in licence applications and renewals.
Managers told of spending working days in bed watching TV box sets. Staff said they were demoralised as colleagues on paid special leave who claimed to be too vulnerable to come to the office were “not doing any work yet they are out and about mingling with others and going on holiday”.
The DVLA has been in crisis as it receives 60,000 pieces of post a day but there have not been enough civil servants on site to open and process drivers’ documents quickly enough.
Amid pressure from hardline trade unionists, limits on numbers of staff at the agency’s offices have remained in place throughout the pandemic, despite them being stricter than government and public health guidance.