50,000 bank staff WFH till 2021, despite PM’s guidance change
Large swathes of the workforce have been working from home for months to help reduce the risks of COVID infections, as instructed by the Government.
But as August nears, the Prime Minister signalled a shift in the messaging around coronavirus and workplace safety.
As of next month, employers will be given a much greater say. In fact, the emphasis is now on them. It seemed that would trigger many employers to bring staff back.
Yet, intriguingly, one of the country’s biggest employers, RBS, has told 50,000 of its staff to carry on working from home until next year.
RBS was quoted in the Guardian as saying: ““Like we’ve done throughout the pandemic the decision has been made carefully, including considering the latest guidance from the UK government on Friday and our own health and safety standards and procedures. It’s a cautious approach but we feel the right one to take currently.”
Boris Johnson last week indicated it would be “safe to go back” but only if the workplace was “COVID-secure”, meaning compliant with the new rules.
Mr Johnson said: “Instead of the government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely.”
He said: “That could mean of course continuing to work from home, which has worked for many employers and employees, or it could mean making workplaces safe by following COVID secure guidelines.”
The move came despite the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance telling MPs one day earlier that there is “absolutely no reason” to change the guidance on working from home.
The change in tack on remote working appears linked to growing pressure to get the economy moving, with grave concerns raised by the Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey about empty offices deepening and prolonging the recession.
The Government has previously stressed it is critical that all employers adhere to the new ‘COVID-secure’ regulations if they intend to resume working in their usual workplaces.
Some elements of the guidelines may be proving to be trickier than others to meet. But we’ve helped to make the process much easier by summarising the essentials in this handy quick guide for HR professionals, which you can download for free.
Among the areas you need to consider are:
- Risk assessment paperwork
- Staggering hours/making rotas
- Staff access: Lifts and staircases
- More virtual meetings
- Permanent desk spaces