UK.gov pays four fellows £35k to do nothing for three months

One was so good at doing nothing he was asked to do it again

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our usually-on-Friday romp through interesting things readers have been asked to do at work.

Last week's tale of a chap who spent a week in Hong Kong doing nothing produced a bulging mailbag, including one story from reader “Adam” who swears blind he and three others were paid £35,000 apiece to do nothing for three months.

Adam tells us he was once asked to contract to the Ministry of Defence in Scotland, for 12 weeks at £80 per hour for a 37 hour week. Plus his travel allowance.

“The little emperor in charge of the department had too much labour budget left at the end of the third quarter and since his budget operated under the outmoded rule of 'you didn't spend all of your budget last year and so we are giving you less this year' he needed to burn up lots of the taxpayers' money fast,” Adam wrote.

“He didn't actually need the money and could easily have done with less but in some accountancy-based trouser bulge measuring contest a big budget pushed you up the big willy scale.”

Adam was hired to do “some data crunching thing”, signed up, did the induction and security training and then “sat in a room in early January with three other confused people as our manager explained that there was no work to do.”

Working from home was not possible. Goofing off by reading a book was not allowed, because the manager felt the staff had to “look busy”. Headphones weren't allowed, which ruled out listening to audio books.

One of Adams colleagues on the job was studying for a master's degree. He got to spend twelve weeks on his dissertation while being paid for it. Another guy, Adam says, “wrote technical articles for a magazine and effectively was paid twice for the same time.”

Adam “spent 12 weeks honing my Java, database and SQL skills and it boosted my CV no end.”

“So I would like to thank all the taxpayers out there for paying me £35k just to learn Java.”

You're welcome, Adam. We think.

The punchline to the story is that Adam was offered the same gig the following year.

“I assume that my manager was so impressed with my ability to do nothing,” he told us.

If you've been paid to sit on your hands, or have tales of being asked to do weird things at weird times in weird places, write to me and we may squeeze you into a future edition of On-Call. ®




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