Financial firms across the City of London have started calling staff back into the office a day after the UK government rescinded directive that staff must work from home.
Official guidance remains in the Republic and the North to work from home where possible, but this is likely to change as public restrictions are eased.
In London, banks such as Goldman Sachs and HSBC, along with law firms, consultants and insurers, dusted off plans before the British government unveiled Plan B restrictions in December to slow the spread of Omicron. This quickly spread across the country, but the peak of infections and hospitalizations now appears to have passed in the UK capital.
A Goldman Sachs spokesperson said it had asked its 6,500 staff in London to return to the office with immediate effect, but would still require them to wear masks when moving around the building as well as take mandatory tests every week.
Citigroup, its Wall Street counterpart, has told employees it needs to attend « at least three days a week » – the same policy it had before the Plan B actions – from now on. They will continue to do antigen tests on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and must wear masks in elevators.
« We are now free to congregate in our offices, without restrictions, where we are better able to generate the energy and collaborative spirit in which Citi thrives… We look forward to seeing you! » David Livingston, its chief executive officer for Europe, said in a note to all UK employees.
The return of hundreds of thousands of workers to London and other city centers will provide a much-needed boost to companies that have been hit hard by a lack of appetite over the past two years.
HSBC said employees began returning to its offices across the country on Thursday. From January 27, they will not be required to wear face masks in offices or branches, and company gyms have reopened. It added in a note that the bank had re-traveled for business in line with international requirements related to isolation and testing.
Similarly, Standard Chartered asked employees to attend next week, but added that the flexible arrangements revealed last year are still in place for the majority of employees.
Accounting and consultancy firm EY, which employs around 17,000 people in the UK, said that from Thursday « all offices will be available for use, use of face coverings will be optional, and meeting rooms will be able to operate at full capacity » in its England offices.
Kevin Ellis, UK president and senior partner at Big Four Accountant PwC, welcomed the easing of restrictions and said staff « value time with colleagues, along with the flexibility to work from home when it helps ».
A person familiar with its new policy said that legal Linklaters, Inc., Magic Circle, will fully reopen its offices starting Monday, although employees will be required to wear masks when moving around the building.
– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022
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