So much for back to your desks! Bosses expect only 56% of their workforce in the office by end of 2021 despite PM’s call because of Covid fears and flexible shift patterns
- Less than half of UK staff have returned to the workplace, a new survey shows
- Around 44% of staff are back in the office, and even then only part-time
- Bosses also expect numbers in the office to plateau by the end of the year
- Ministers have been encouraging Britons WFH to get back into offices
Less than half of UK staff have returned to the workplace – and even then only on a part-time basis – while a third of businesses have decided to cut their office space as bosses prepare for another Covid surge this winter.
A survey of more than 1,000 managers by the Chartered Management Institute revealed that around 44 per cent of staff are back in the workplace for only part of the week despite restrictions – including the work-from-home diktat – being eased in mid-July.
Bosses also expect numbers in the office to plateau by the end of the year, in a sign that measures adopted during the pandemic are unlikely to fully unwind before Christmas.
Cabinet Ministers have been encouraging Britons working from home to get back into offices, in a bid to kickstart the UK’s wounded economy after 18 months of restrictions and begin to plug the gaping hole in the public finances increased during the pandemic.
Boris Johnson warned people that they risk being ‘gossiped about’ and missing out on ‘stimulus and competition’ unless they return to the office, while Tory chairman Oliver Dowden accused public sector workers including civil servants of preferring to use their Peloton exercise bikes than ‘get back to their desks’.
However, in a round of interviews at Tory conference in Manchester, the Prime Minister appeared to undercut his own advice by indicating that the work-from-home edict could return if ‘a new variant or another pandemic could always hit us’.
The survey published by the Financial Times found that nearly two-thirds of bosses polled said they were concerned the Delta variant may lead to another lockdown, with more than half saying they have made contingency plans for another Covid outbreak this winter.
And more than half of managers surveyed also said they were encouraging staff to get vaccinated before returning to the office – with a fifth of bosses asking staff to voluntarily disclose their jab status.
Less than half of UK staff have returned to the workplace – and even then only on a part-time basis – while a third of businesses have decided to cut their office space as bosses prepare for another Covid surge this winter (stock image)
Pictured: Commuters crossing London Bridge in July 2021 as Covid restrictions were eased
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the annual Conservative Party Conference, in Manchester, October 6, 2021
Britain’s downturn in Covid cases may have come to an end, official figures suggested yesterday as daily infections rose for the first time in a week.
Department of Health bosses posted 39,851 new positive tests today, up 8.5 per cent on last Wednesday’s count of 36,722. It is the largest daily toll since September 6 (41,192).
Hospitalisations also increased 1.1 per cent to 666 on Saturday, the latest date data is available for. It was the first time in 20 days the number of daily admissions had increased week-on-week.
But the number of people dying within 28 days of a positive test has continued to fall, with 143 fatalities recorded today. Deaths were down 4.7 per cent on the 150 recorded last Wednesday, marking the twelfth day in a row the number of victims fell week-on-week.
It comes after separate official figures today revealed nearly a fifth of people in Blackburn have tested positive for Covid since the pandemic began.
The Lancashire authority has been the worst hit area in the UK, recording 12 times more cases per population size than the least affected parts of the UK.
Department of Health data shows around 19,000 per 100,000 people in Blackburn have had the virus since March 2020, compared to just 1,500 in the Orkney Islands in Scotland.
Ann Francke, chief executive of the CMI, said the slow return to the office was due to a combination of factors including ‘the Delta variant, fuel shortages and the implementation of hybrid practices and remote solutions’.
She added that ‘most employees who can work in a hybrid way want to do so and in a tight labour market, organisations are more likely to accommodate this’.
‘Managers are prepared and organisations are in a far better place now to deal with lockdowns. Managers have learnt from the events of the last two years… (most) have a plan B – or even C – in place, ready to be enacted if needed,’ she also said.
And in a further embarrassment for Downing Street, Mr Johnson also admitted that not all of his own civil servants are back at their desks yet – stressing that the Cabinet Secretary had told them to return.
Some departments are thought to have as little as a tenth of staff routinely working in the office, although others are doing much better.
In August, Minister Gillian Keegan revealed that as few as a fifth of all mandarins were back in Whitehall, with plans in place for as phased return into the autumn.
The Government has also launched a consultation on baking the right to work from home at least part-time into employment law, though they stopped short of making it the default option.
Mr Johnson launched an ill-fated attempt to get office staff back to their desks last year, which was wrecked by the emergence of the second wave of Covid.
Scientific advisers have pressed him not to repeat the exercise this year because working from home is one of the most effective ways of slowing the spread of the virus. Instead the Government left it up to employers to encourage a ‘gradual return to the workplace’.
A second Tory source said ministers were now hopeful they would not have to issue another work from home order this winter.
‘You can never rule anything out with Covid,’ the source said. ‘But we are now in early October and hospitalisations are still running at manageable levels. We are not at the point of anyone thinking about Plan B.
‘Even if we get to that point, it would start with things that cause relatively little disruption, such as mandatory masks and Covid certification.’
Powers to reinstate the work from home order have been kept in reserve in the Government’s contingency plans for Covid this winter. But ministers believe that Britain’s wall of vaccination is holding up well against the virus.
Rishi Sunak unveils £500million funding package to help get furloughed workers back into jobs as scheme ends
Rishi Sunak unveiled a £500million funding package to help get furloughed workers back into jobs.
During the pandemic, the £70billion furlough scheme is credited with saving millions of jobs.
But around one million workers were still on the programme when it finally closed last week, sparking fears of a surge in unemployment.
In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference, the Chancellor announced funding to ‘prioritise’ job support for workers coming off furlough.
The £500million extension to the Government’s plan for jobs will also provide tailored packages for others hit by the pandemic, including the young and workers aged over 50.
Mr Sunak declared he is ‘ready to double-down’ on his promise to ‘do whatever it takes’ to recover from Covid-19.
He said the furlough scheme protected 11million jobs and the UK is ‘experiencing one of the strongest and fastest recoveries of any major economy in the world’.
It comes as early data suggests the end of the £70billion furlough scheme did not lead to the wave of job cuts many expected after the massive Covid financial support scheme was wound down last month.
Figures from the Insolvency Service show that the number of redundancies proposed by employers in September was close to record lows, with many businesses with large numbers of furloughed workers saying they have taken everyone back.
The furlough scheme introduced by the Government last year, where the state paid a proportion of workers’ wages when their bosses couldn’t during the pandemic, ended last month.
It is estimated that the programme helped to protect 11.6million jobs over the past 18 months. But around one million workers were still on the programme when it finally closed last week, sparking fears of a surge in unemployment – particularly within the hospitality and travel sectors decimated by Covid.
Now official data suggests the number of businesses planning redundancies was still close to record lows last month, with just over 200 firms informing the Government of plans to lay off workers.
The figures indicate that just 13,836 jobs were at risk last month – a slight increase on August, but far below the levels seen last summer among the lowest numbers ever seen since records began. However, these figures don’t include smaller firms, because employers are only obliged to notify government when making 20 or more jobs redundant.
Trade unions including the Community, CWU, GMB, Prospect, Unite and Usdaw told the BBC they had not received news of any major redundancies among their members this week.
Tony Wilson, director of the Institute of Employment Studies, told the broadcaster: ‘With estimates of actual redundancies and of real-time online searches related to redundancy both lower than before the pandemic, it looks like the worst is well and truly behind us now on job losses.’
The new month of October also marked the end of the furlough salary support scheme as well as the withdrawal of an extra £20-a-week for struggling households receiving Universal Credit.
It comes as Britain experiences its worst crisis since the Covid outreak, with soaring gas prices and rising inflation set to hit people in their wallets while businesses accused the Prime Minister of ‘economic illiteracy’.
Now official data suggests the number of businesses planning redundancies was still close to record lows last month, with just over 200 firms informing the Government of plans to lay off workers. The figures indicate that just 13,836 jobs were at risk last month – a slight increase on August, but far below the levels seen last summer among the lowest numbers ever seen since records began
Half of the people who were on furlough spent more than three months in total off work as the Covid-19 crisis wreaked havoc with businesses
A quarter of the nation’s workforce were on furlough at some point during the pandemic, according to numbers published this morning by the Office for National Statistics
Around a million people were thought to be on furlough by the time the scheme ended, of whom around half were working part-time and partly furloughed, the Resolution Foundation think-tank said.
The massive scale of the coronavirus furlough scheme was laid bare today as official statistics showed one in four UK workers were kept afloat by handouts from the Government.
Numbers published by the Office for National Statistics indicate that a quarter of the nation’s workforce were on furlough at some point during the pandemic, with half the people who were on the scheme spent more than three months in total off work as the Covid-19 crisis wreaked havoc with businesses.
Meanwhile, the numbers revealed that employees with no education above GCSE level were more likely to have been furloughed than their counterparts with university degrees.
ONS data showed that one in four people who were employees during the coronavirus pandemic had been on furlough at some point between March 2020 and June 2021.
Younger and older workers were more likely to have been on furlough than their middle-aged counterparts.
Commuters cross London Bridge in July 2021 as national Covid restrictions were axed
The numbers revealed that employees with no education above GCSE level were more likely to have been furloughed than their counterparts with university degrees
The numbers also showed that people in corporate management or director roles were less likely to have been furloughed
Some 30 per cent of workers under the age of 24 and a similar proportion of those over the age of 65 were on furlough compared to 23 per cent of workers aged 35 to 44 years.
Half of the overall number of people furloughed spent more than three months in total on the scheme, with 24 per cent spending six months or longer at home.
ONS numbers showed that 54 per cent of women were furloughed for more than three months, compared to 45 per cent of men.
The data revealed there was a significant education divide when it came to who was being furloughed.
The ONS said: ‘Employees during the pandemic with a degree or equivalent qualification were 8.9 percentage points less likely to be furloughed, when compared with those whose highest qualifications were GCSEs.
‘This may reflect more specific job responsibilities or levels of experience across people with similar jobs, which meant certain people were less likely to go on furlough.’
The ONS found that eight per cent of people who had been furloughed were no longer employed in the three months to June this year.
It was broadly the same picture for employees who had not been furloughed (seven per cent). The numbers published by the ONS cover the period between March 2020 and June 2021.
Analysis of the situation at the point when the furlough scheme ended is expected to be published by the organisation in the coming months.
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