Major firms reveal plans to get workers back to their desks

The rush hour resumes: Commuters pack onto Tube trains at 7am as big banks and city firms reveal plans to get workers back to their desksbut civil service unions dig in their heels and accuse PM of ‘reckless, headlong’ terugkeer

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week scrapped official guidance instructing people to work from home
  • Orders Cabinet ministers to ensure Whitehall staff resumed ‘normal working patterns’ so gou as moontlik
  • But unions branding demands ‘insultingand said move to get workers back at their desks was ‘reckless
  • Business giants have also begun calling staff back to offices and Underground trains looked busy today
  • Commuters packed onto busy London Tube trains during today’s rush hour while civil service unions went to war with Boris Johnson as Covid curbs are scrapped.

    Photos at around 7am today showed a busy Piccadilly Line, with many workers forced to stand because no seats were left. Traffic data from TomTom showed that more people in London, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle are driving to work compared to Friday last week.

    But civil service unions have launched an all-out rebellion against the Prime Minister’s bid to get Britain back to work as the Omicron wave fades.

    The embattled Tory leader has dropped official WFH guidance and demanded civil servants set an example by returning to their desks.

    Gister, Mr Johnson ordered Cabinet ministers to ensure their Whitehall staff resumed ‘normal working patterns’ as soon as possible.

    But union bosses branded the PM’s demands ‘insulting’ and claimed the move to get workers back in the office was ‘reckless’. Mr Johnson’s critics have claimed that the change to Covid rules is one of a series of crowd-pleasing policies to divert public attention from the lockdown party scandal and appease mutinous backbenchers as he fights for his political life.

    The Public and Commercial Services union, which represents civil servants and other public sector workers, warned against a ‘headlong rush’ back to the workplace. The FDA union also reacted angrily, saying the world of work had ‘changed for good’.

    Tory MPs and business leaders demanded that Mr Johnson face down the unions – saying failure to act would be disastrous for the economy.

    Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith called the unions ‘selfish’ for backing continued home working as the threat of Covid wanes.

    ‘When they eventually go back to their office there won’t be anywhere to get a sandwich from or sit down in a pub – they’ll all close,’ he warned. ‘It’s selfish and self-centred just to stay with hybrid working. If unions had their way you’d get paid for doing no work, but the reality is that we should be back at our offices.’

    Commuters travel on the Piccadilly line through Holborn station in Central London at about 7am this morning

    Commuters travel on the Piccadilly line through Holborn station in Central London at about 7am this morning

    Commuters wait for a Piccadilly line train at King's Cross St Pancras station on the London Underground at about 7am today

    Commuters wait for a Piccadilly line train at King’s Cross St Pancras station on the London Underground at about 7am today

    Commuters travel on the Piccadilly line through Central London during the morning rush hour at about 7am today

    Commuters travel on the Piccadilly line through Central London during the morning rush hour at about 7am today

    Commuters walk along a passageway at King's Cross St Pancras station on the London Underground at about 7am today

    Commuters walk along a passageway at King’s Cross St Pancras station on the London Underground at about 7am today

    Commuters travel on the Piccadilly line through Holborn station in Central London at about 7am this morning

    Commuters travel on the Piccadilly line through Holborn station in Central London at about 7am this morning

    Commuters sit on the Piccadilly line this morning as they travel through Central London on their way to work at about 7am

    Commuters sit on the Piccadilly line this morning as they travel through Central London on their way to work at about 7am

    Data published by Transport for London shows commuter traffic over the past two years (Januarie 2020 aan 2022). It reveals the number of workers travelling by bus or Tube, and commuter footfall across the capital, remains way down on pre-Covid

    Data published by Transport for London shows commuter traffic over the past two years (Januarie 2020 aan 2022). It reveals the number of workers travelling by bus or Tube, and commuter footfall across the capital, remains way down on pre-Covid

    So what is changingand when will it happen? Your guide to the post-curb rules as Boris Johnson announces the end of Covid Plan B rules

    FROM NOW

    WORKING FROM HOME: The Prime Minister said on Wednesday that the Government is no longer asking people to work from home. He called on people to speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office.

    MASKS IN SCHOOLS: From yesterday, secondary school pupils will not have to wear face coverings in classrooms. The requirement to wear masks in corridors and other communal areas will end next Thursday, Januarie 27.

    FROM NEXT THURSDAY

    MASKS IN PUBLIC PLACES: From next Thursday, the Government will no longer legally mandate the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport. But they will continue to suggest masks should be worn in enclosed and crowded places where people could come into contact with those they do not normally meet. The Prime Minister said this meant the Government will ‘trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one’.

    COVID PASSPORTS: Proof of vaccination or a recent negative test will no longer be needed to enter nightclubs and large venues from next Thursday. But businesses will still be free to use the NHS Covid Pass if they want.

    BY THE END OF THE MONTH

    TRAVEL: An announcement is expected soon on scrapping the requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take a Covid test on returning to England. Geen 10 said the rules will be reviewed by the end of January.

    CARE HOMES: Plans to ease restrictions on care home visits will be announced in the next few days. Huidiglik, care homes must impose severe restrictions on visitors for up to 28 days if there has been a Covid outbreak affecting two or more residents.

    BY MARCH AT THE LATEST

    SELF-ISOLATION: Boris Johnson said he ‘very much expectsnot to renew the legal requirement to self-isolate with Covid when the rules lapse on March 24. He said this could happen even earlier, if the data allows. The legal requirement will be replaced with guidance that urges people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.

    BY JULY

    FREE TESTS: Free Covid lateral flow tests look set to be scrapped by July. People will be pointed towards an online ordering system to purchase the tests, which cost £30 for a pack of seven.

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    The Cabinet Office has refused to put a target date on when ministers want to see a full return of Whitehall staff – leading to fears that many could stay working from home for weeks.

    One source at the Ministry of Justice suggested workers would return only in phases rather than en masse.

    Mr Johnson continued to face claims over the ‘Partygate’ row, as a Tory MP made extraordinary allegations of ‘blackmail’ by Conservative whips.

    Tory former minister David Jones added: ‘It’s time to return to a more normal way of living. That includes returning to the office, which is significantly healthier than being holed up at home.

    ‘People benefit hugely from interaction with colleagues. It’s better for mental health and also helps professional development. We also need to restore vibrancy to our urban centres, thereby helping our economy to grow.’

    Lord Rose, former chairman of Marks & Spencer, told LBC Radio he had been calling for a return to the office for months.

    Hy het bygevoeg: ‘I cannot believe that we’ve got a nation sitting at home now cowed by this Government, because they’re fearful of this virus – which has been unpleasant, it has killed a lot of people – but it is something we now have to live with.’

    Gisteraand, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said ministers had been told to get their offices ready for the full return of staff.

    Egter, when contacted by the Mail, individual departments refused to say when all staff would be expected to return to the office. They also refused to say what proportion of officials were working in the office at the moment.

    Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, said it was ‘insulting’ to ‘force’ officials back to the office.

    ‘The idea that forcing civil servants back into the office will somehow show a lead to the rest of the economy is frankly insulting to all those businesses who have made decisions that enhance their efficiency and profitability.’

    The PCS union said: ‘There should not be a reckless, headlong rush to increase numbers at workplaces. In plaas daarvan, there needs to be a properly planned approach, which allows the employer and the union to negotiate safe arrangements.’

    An aide to one minister said: ‘There are still not as many officials in the office as there should be.’

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted his department could not get all the staff in because there was not enough space.

    It comes as business giants began calling staff back to offices yesterday after Mr Johnson scrapped work-from-home guidance.

    Large banks, advertising firms and insurers announced plans to return to the office – although most said flexible working arrangements would remain in place.

    Big Four accountancy firm KPMG said it ‘welcomedthe end of the Government guidance and told staff in England to come into the office at least two days a week.

    Investment bank Citi sent a note to staff highlighting the benefits of office working, including that they are ‘better able to generate the energy and collaborative spiritit thrives on.

    It told workers to return to their desks for at least three days a week while taking regular tests.

    HSBC said its staff started returning to the office yesterday, while Standard Chartered asked employees to come in from Monday.

    Citigroup and Goldman Sachs said they also plan to resume office working.

    Havas, a French advertising agency with 11,500 personeel wêreldwyd, told the BBC it would ‘fully reopenits London HQ from Monday.

    Commuters make their way down an escalator on the London Underground network at about 7am this morning

    Commuters make their way down an escalator on the London Underground network at about 7am this morning

    Commuters sit on the Piccadilly line this morning as they travel through Central London on their way to work at about 7am

    Commuters sit on the Piccadilly line this morning as they travel through Central London on their way to work at about 7am

    Chris Hirst, of Havas, told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Many of our employees really do want to come back, but there are some people who are nervous.

    ‘We will be talking to those people individually and finding solutions that work for them.Insurance firm Zurich said it was ‘excitedto welcome staff back but most would continue on a hybrid basis.

    The announcements came as hospitality bosses highlighted the devastating impact working from home had on city centre pubs, restaurante, cafes and shops.

    Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser Sacha Lord said high streets have ‘severely lackedmuch-needed footfall.

    And UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the sector needs the support of communities ‘more than ever’.

    ‘The removal of working from home guidance in England is a huge boost for hospitality operators, as they started 2022 low on cash after a second cancelled Christmas, deep in debt after two years of restricted trading, and facing soaring costs on so many fronts,’ het sy bygevoeg.

    No more shutdowns of economy, says Sajid Javid

    Britain should not shut down the economy again, even if Covid continues to claim thousands of lives a year, Sajid Javid said yesterday.

    The Health Secretary said the UK had to ‘learn to live with Covid’, while high jab rates and improved medical treatment meant the risk to life was much lower than when it first emerged.

    Mnr Javid het op sy nederige begin gespeel: ‘In a bad flu year you can sadly lose about 20,000 lewens, but we don’t shut down our entire country. Covid is not going awayI think we are leading Europe in the transition from pandemic to endemic.

    Clive Dix, former chairman of the Vaccines Taskforce, backed the call, saying Covid was now a ‘mild diseasefor most – if they have been jabbed.

    Government sources said ministers were still working on a plan for ‘living with Covidin the long term.

    Self-isolation rules for those with the virus are due to expire on March 24, but the Prime Minister said this week he hopes to bring the date forward.

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