Businesses have begun revealing their plans to get workers back in office after the coronavirus lockdown is eventually lifted, with staff likely to face a string of restrictions such as working in isolation for social distancing.
Companies are preparing for ministers to release a series of workplace guides going into ‘granular detail’ about the measures that will have to continue even when the lockdown is eased, which now looks like it will be in June.
Standard Chartered bank may keep staff at home after the lockdown, while car maker Vauxhall will hang red tape from the ceiling to impose social distancing and house builders will limit workers to one home at a time.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has asked officials to produce advice on how a gradual return to work could be managed safely for seven different workplaces, including offices, factories and construction sites.
In other developments with no end in sight to the crisis:
- Boris Johnson declared that Britain is ‘past the peak’ of coronavirus tonight – but urged the public to ‘keep going’ with lockdown to avoid a fresh outbreak.
- Britain today announced 674 more coronavirus deaths in hospitals, care homes and elsewhere, taking the UK’s official death toll to 26,711;
- A report has warned that London’s transport network could be crippled when the UK eases lockdown measures after TfL furloughed 7,000 staff;
- Ministers have admitted that the government will ‘probably’ miss Matt Hancock’s target for carrying out 100,000 tests a day – although the numbers have jumped to 81,000;
- A poll has found two-thirds of the public believe the government acted too late in imposing the lockdown;
- Fresh questions have been raised about the SAGE group amid claims that it has been influenced by politicians and senior officials;
- NHS fundraising hero Tom Moore has been promoted to colonel and honoured with an RAF flypast to mark his 100th birthday;
- Top surgeons have warned thousands of people will die of Covid-19 if Britain’s strict lockdown is lifted at this stage, saying the NHS must not be used as a ‘punchbag’ to avoid economic damage;
- Germany has said its coronavirus reproduction rate is 0.76, well below the growth level of one, despite fears over easing of curbs. But scientists have warned the UK has less room to manoeuvre on lockdown because it has far fewer intensive care beds
Here, MailOnline looks at how the return to work may look for some of the different sectors in the UK economy:
CONSTRUCTION AND REAL ESTATE
Construction companies are likely to be among the first to get back to work, with some still operating during the pandemic amid advice that the virus spreads much less effectively outdoors.
But workers have accused the Government of leaving them at risk by allowing building sites to remain open, with workers saying they are scared they would lose their jobs if they failed to report for duty.
Labourers have complained that it was virtually impossible to maintain a safe distance from colleagues in an environment where staff are often fitting or moving large items together.
Chief executive Peter Redfern has said some employees will be returning to work from next Monday, saying the initial return to work will just involve three or four people ensuring the sites are set up correctly. Sub-contractors are then likely to return in a staged way from May 11, before they get up to 80 per cent of normally capacity over a month. The company has said most of its sites are low rise and it is therefore quite straightforward to ‘ring-fence an entire house for one person, or at the very least a floor’. But it has also told of the complexities of people interacting when they sign in, eat, wash or use changing facilities – and when two-person jobs are required, such as lifting a window into place, they intend to give employees additional personal protective equipment.
HINKLEY POINT C
Claimed to be the largest construction scheme in UK history, work has continued on site for the Hinkley Point C project throughout the pandemic. EDF Energy, which is behind the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Somerset, said last month that the number of people on site had fallen by more than half to around 2,000, but work has carried on, with measures brought in to prevent the spread of infection. These include split shifts, extra buses, including social distancing markers and protective screens for drivers, and staggered breaks, while temperature checks are also enforced upon entry to site. But there are no plans to increase the number of people on site in the coming weeks.
Physical works at project sites remain temporarily paused, with no confirmed date for a restart yet. Project bosses say much of the central section infrastructure is now substantially complete, with fit-out nearing completion at many stations such as Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road with all physical works done in the tunnels, shaft and portals. But while physical works are paused, Crossrail staff have been continuing on with the other main element of the programme – software development for the train and signalling systems along with progressing the major volume of assurance and safety certification that must be completed for the Elizabeth line.
Work on the controversial railway project remains full speed ahead, with around three-quarters of its 200 sites now open, chief executive Mark Thurston told the government’s Transport Committee this week. He told MPs project bosses took two weeks to review when the lockdown was triggered and made sure they were only able to continue working if social distancing could be enforced. Some of the measures introduced on sites include staggering shifts, temperature checks and hand washing on arrival on site, extra hygiene facilities, additional PPE, and the removal of fingerprint turnstiles. There are also rules about one person per vehicle, one person in the bathroom, contact-free deliveries, cleaning of equipment before and after use, one way routes with floor markings and operatives are asked to walk, cycle or drive instead of using public transport.
The firm plans to start mobilising building sites from May 11 with the intention of a ‘phased return’ to construction work from May 18. Redrow, which closed down all its sites on March 27 and furloughed 80 per cent of its staff, said net reservations have been running ‘at very low levels’ since the lockdown was imposed a month ago and will do so until the Government allows people moving home. The firm has set up an online course for staff on what precautions to take. There will also be dedicated Covid-19 supervisors on site, signage and personal protective equipment. Executive chairman John Tutte had previously stated that building sites would not reopen until July.
REAL ESTATE, RENTING AND SURVEYING
An estimated 373,000 property transactions with a total value of £82billion have been put on hold due to the lockdown, with questions now being asked about home viewings can get back up and running. Alistair Brown, founder of Glasgow-based Alistair Brown International Real Estate, pointed to new technologies such as Resivue which act like a digital sales brochure. He told MailOnline: ‘This app in particular allows consumers to view a property through 3D tours and floorplans, connect with estate agents via live chat and has the ability to showcase any home, update property details and put it on the market in minutes.’ He said this means viewings do not necessarily need to take place for valuations, although home viewings by purchasers are ‘still essential to a sale’.
Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association, said he believes valuations and viewings are going back to normal, adding: ‘Valuations can be carried out observing social distancing. There is no reason for a landlord, vendor, or tenant to have to be present during a valuation.’ He also claimed a viewing of a listing in the rental market could be done ‘almost entirely remotely or in person without a landlord or householder present’, adding that any negotiation could then be handled by phone or video call.
As for surveying, Simon Jackson, managing director at SDL Surveying, said: ‘We’re anticipating a staggered change to work practices post-lockdown with estate agents and surveyors being able to work in a more normalised way, however still respecting social distancing and working within certain guidelines in relation to their own health and that of the resident, the presentation of the property, the attendance of the resident, plus the PPE used. By doing this, we think we’ll be able to start inspecting properties and conducting physical valuations.’
** Are you a builder or estate agent concerned about the return to work? Email: [email protected] **
UK car makers are drawing up detailed plans to ensure worker safety when they return from lockdown, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said – with two-thirds of the workforce currently furloughed.
The number of cars built in the UK last month slumped by 37 per cent, and factory closures forced by the crisis could result in 257,000 fewer vehicles being produced this year across if UK plants stay closed until mid-May.
This amounts to an estimated cost to industry of some £8.2 billion, equivalent to 20 per cent of UK car makers’ combined annual turnover. The SMMT said a successful restart will require a clear plan built on four pillars.
These include re-opening retail and stimulating demand, ramping up safe and sustainable production, securing and supporting resilient supply chains, and ensuring a supportive regulatory framework is in place.
Rolls-Royce is to become the first UK car firm to restart full production after the coronavirus lockdown, with staff returning on May 4. Bosses said that 1,000 employees – half the total workforce – would be back on the production line from that date resuming production of its exclusive Phantom, Wraith, Dawn and Cullinan models. Support staff such as marketing and sales will continue to work from home. The firm’s factory at Goodwood near Chichester will operate one shift daily, rather than the usual two. Staff will wear protective clothing and masks, and will observe social distancing rules in line with Health and Safety advice.
Aston Martin Lagonda has announced that it will resume operations at its St Athan facility, in Wales on 5 May, following guidelines from Public Health Wales and Public Health England to protect its workforce. It said it will take ‘learnings in terms of health and safety’ into account when it reopens its main car plant in Gaydon, Warwickshire, at a later date.
Bentley says it will introduce a set of around 250 ‘comprehensive and wide-ranging’ new hygiene and social distancing measures under a phased return to production at the company’s headquarters in Crewe from May 11. Full production is anticipated to resume on May 18 with a later, staggered return to work for office-based colleagues and those able to work from home. The measures are built around seven key areas – prior to leaving work, travel, entry, preparing for work, work stations, breaks, and exiting the site – and are designed to protect staff at the factory, which employs over 4,000 people and where every Bentley is hand-built.
Nissan has announced plans to begin building cars again in June after suspending production more than six weeks ago. The car giant said its Sunderland plant will remain closed throughout May, with a phased resumption of work the following month. During the lockdown, Nissan staff have used their production and distribution skills to help make personal protective equipment, including visors and gowns, for the NHS. The Japanese firm had previously been piloting new safety measures at the Sunderland plant using 50 members of staff who returned to work last week.
Jaguar Land Rover
Britain’s biggest car maker, Jaguar Land Rover, has announced it is to ‘gradually’ resume production at two of its UK plants on May 18 amid ‘robust’ guidelines to support a return to work. Bosses at JLR said that manufacturing will resume at its major assembly line in Solihull, West Midlands, and at its engine plant in Wolverhampton next month. JLR has furloughed around half its workforce – though it has been taking the option to top-up their pay to 100 per cent. It confirmed that around a quarter of the Solihull workforce will return in mid-May – the production hub for SUV models including the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar and Jaguar F-Pace.
French bosses of Vauxhall said that the Ellesmere Port factory – which produces the Astra – has been ‘active’ during the lockdown to implement a protocol of reinforced health measures. This features more than 100 measures, such as checking employees’ temperatures and them self-monitoring symptoms. The wearing of glasses on site will also be supplemented by a daily individual supply of masks, and respecting safe distances between people. Measures include break areas with markings on the floor, keeping doors open – except fire doors – to avoid contact with handles and frequent cleaning of tools. The company will also hang red tape from the factory roof to ensure workers stay two metres apart on the floor, and also place markings in rest areas and even at urinals in the men’s toilets.
** Are you concerned about returning to work in manufacturing? Email: [email protected] **
The hospitality sector is at the back of the queue when it comes to the Government’s exit plan for getting Britain’s economy back up and running, although some aspects of it have continued during the lockdown.
Takeaway deliveries have continued mostly among independent businesses through apps such as JustEat and Deliveroo, while some hotels are remaining open to provide beds for key workers and stranded tourists.
However pubs, bars, nightclubs and restaurants all present major risks in terms of social distancing. Some have even suggested limiting pub customers to two or three pints to avoid establishments becoming overcrowded.
But there are proposals being looked at to protect workers and customers in these industries when they reopen, such as staggered shift patterns, more hand-sanitisers and ensuring minimal contact between employees.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of industry body the British Beer and Pub Association, told MailOnline today that it is ‘difficult to say when pubs are expected to reopen and what the future of the pub looks like’.
McDonald’s is carrying out tests behind closed doors this week in preparation for reopening sites, as they look at social distancing measures for staff, personal protective equipment options and opening in a limited capacity. The company also wants to ensure it will have enough supply of fresh produce, but said it will remain closed for now and will only open when it is ‘absolutely confident’ it has the right measures to ensure the wellbeing of staff and customers. It is thought that the fast food giant, which is already operation again in coronavirus-stricken France, could open some of its 1,249 restaurants in Britain for drive-through or delivery orders around the middle of next month.
KFC is to reopen 80 more restaurants for deliveries as it becomes the latest fast food chain to ramp up its plans in response to the coronavirus lockdown. The fried chicken chain has gradually opened 20 of its sites over the past two weeks for deliveries only. It said yesterday that it will now reopen an additional 80 restaurants across the UK this week, taking its total to 100 by Monday. The chain, which has over 900 sites nationwide and employs around 24,000 people, shut all its restaurants last month due to the lockdown. KFC said it will serve a ‘limited menu’ to help smaller kitchen teams maintain social distancing, while ‘stringent processes and hygiene measures’ are in place. Food will be delivered through Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats.
Burger King said yesterday that it hopes to open at least 350 of its restaurants by the end of June as part of a staggered reopening after the lockdown. It has already announced plans to open 12 restaurants out of its current crop of 500. UK chief executive Alasdair Murdoch said a scaled-back menu would allow staff to socially distance while making the food, with the arrangements being put into place for drive-through restaurants, and with trials set to start on how to reopen high street walk-in locations.
Pub chain Wetherspoon plans to reopen its 880 bars in June with social distancing. The company said its venues tended to be larger than its rivals and this would help it to space out customers. But bosses admitted they may still axe some of the 43,000 staff after five weeks of zero sales at the firm’s pubs and hotels. Founder Tim Martin, who has volunteered to take a 50 per cent pay cut, said: ‘We look forward to reopening and welcoming back our teams.’ The pub group says sales could be down 25 per cent for several months even after it opens its 880 pubs.
Marriott has said it will consider reopening our hotels on a ‘case-by-case basis’ and said its public space and guestroom surfaces will be ‘thoroughly treated with hospital-grade disinfectants’. It is also placing disinfecting wipes in each room for guests to use, and intstall more hand sanitising stations at the entrances to its hotels, near the front desk, elevator banks and fitness and meeting spaces. It is also planning to roll out electrostatic sprayers with disinfectant to sanitise surfaces in the hotel, and testing ultraviolet light technology for sanitising keys for guests and devices shared by staff.
ACCOR HOTELS (IBIS, MERCURE AND NOVOTEL)
The French hotel chain is implementing a series of measures to ensure the safety of staff and guests, including ‘enhancing’ housekeeping procedures for bedrooms and public areas and adapting the food and drink offering with restaurants unable to open. The group, which owns chains with a presence in Britain such as Ibis, Mercure and Novotel, is also encouraging online check in and check out, making more facilities available for hand washing and hand sanitising and observing social distancing with signage and markers.
Hilton is working with Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Dettol and Lysol, and the US hospital group Mayo Clinic to create the ‘Hilton CleanStay’ brand with an increased focus on cleanliness. These policies will include door seals on rooms to show when they were last cleaned, replacing frequent-use items such as guest directories with digital options available on request, and paying particular attention to ten high-touch areas, detailed in a graphic below. The initiative will begin in June, and could also include closing hotel fitness centres for cleaning multiple times each day.
This graphic shows how cleaners at Hilton hotels will be paying particular attention to ten high-touch areas in each room
** Are you concerned about returning to work in the hospitality sector? Email: [email protected] **
The retail industry is braced for a domino-like collapse in already fragile brands amid the lockdown, which have been hammered in recent years by shoppers choosing to make purchases online and sky-high business rates.
Worries are mounting that consumer spending will be slow to recover once lockdown restrictions are lifted and stores are allowed to reopen, with social distancing expected to remain in place in stores across the country.
With many workers across different salary brackets furloughed or facing the prospect that they could lose their jobs, analysts are sceptical about firms’ hopes that spending will immediately pick back up to former levels.
British Independent Retailers Association boss Andrew Goodacre said : ‘Retailers will need some notice to give them the opportunity to plan for re-opening and creating systems that allow for these measures to be in place.
‘On top of these practical issues, we have to accept that footfall and sales will remain below normal levels, and this will make it hard for some of the retailer to remain open during the transition period.’
Next has announced it plans to start by opening stores in retail parks, which have larger floorplans and more space for social distancing measures to be put in place. These branches also tend to have longer store opening hours, which means there are often fewer customers trying to shop at the store at any one time, proportional to its size. Following supermarkets, managers will set up a system by which customers are asked to queue outside before being let in. Inside the store there will be two-metre markings on the floor to encourage customers to observe social distancing. There will also be hand sanitisers. At the till there will be plastic screens to separate workers and customers.
RUSSELL AND BROMLEY
The footwear and handbag retailer said it had paused its online trading for three weeks to adjust our warehouse process but went live again yesterday. Its news procedures include a reduced team voluntarily returning to work in the warehouse, regular deep cleaning of its site and workspaces, reducing contact between teams and courier partners, building physical barriers between workstations in its warehouses, additional breaks for staff handwashing and extra sanitising stations in its warehouses. The customer care team continue to work remotely, and stores are shut.
Debenhams said they are preparing for social distancing measures ahead of the return to work, and bosses have placed orders for personal protective equipment, acrylic screens and signage – all of which will be installed prior to reopening. All stores will also have a deep clear before they welcome customers again, and there will be an employee on each floor to help maintain social distancing. As for the beauty section, there will be no touching and social distancing will be in place, but staff will give demonstrations at a distance and customers will be able to use individual testers for skin colour and individual fragrance samples.
John Lewis bosses are deciding which of their 50 stores will re-open after the lockdown eases, with insider sources claiming it is ‘highly unlikely’ all of them will survive. The retailer was forced to close all 35 of its department stores and 15 smaller John Lewis At Home shops when Britain went into lockdown. It saw 400 staff made redundant and another 14,000 furloughed. But earlier this week it was revealed retail bosses have begun considering which stores are not financially viable – even when social distancing measures ease up. A spokesman said: ‘Our shops are likely to reopen in three stages over a total period of three to six weeks.’
** Are you a retail worker concerned about returning to work in a store? Email: [email protected] **
The tourism industry has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic like no other, with businesses on the brink since lockdown restrictions implemented in Britain last month banned all but essential travel.
British Airways is set to make 12,000 workers redundant, Virgin Atlantic asked the government for a £500million bailout and almost all UK flights have been completely grounded.
Andrew Charlton, of Aviation Advocacy, said: ‘Even if it starts raining vaccines tonight, we are still looking at two years at least to get back to levels seen before the outbreak. It is probably going to be more like five years.’
EasyJet plans to keep the middle seat in a row of three open to encourage more people to fly after the lockdown. Chief executive Johan Lundgren does not think this will require too much enforcing because he does not expect the planes to be so full after lockdown anyway. He said it is an idea for the initial phase after lockdown and does not know how long the measure will need to be in place, adding: ‘I think it’s important that customers understand that we are taking this very seriously, and first and foremost, our concern is about the customers’ well-being and our people’s well-being.’
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary has said that he will not consider flying with the middle seat left free. He needs all seats available for sale for his prediction that 80 per cent of the airline’s schedule will be back on track by September if European flights start again in July. ‘Even if you do that, the middle seat doesn’t deliver any social distancing, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t achieve anything anyway,’ he said. Instead he intends to enforce temperature checks for all passengers and crew and make wearing face masks compulsory.
Tui have cancelled travel up to the end of May and have delayed the TUI River Cruise, due to launch last month, to November. TUI has not yet committed to any measures post-lockdown but have promised to constantly monitor the situation and act accordingly. They said: ‘We, like other travel companies, want to travel again as soon as we possibly can and will do so in line with government advice.’
** Are you a tourism or airline worker concerned about returning to work? Email: [email protected] **
Those working in the beauty industry come into very close contact with customers during their visit and are owners are therefore having to put in place new practices to alievate fears over health and safety in salons.
Millie Kendall, chief executive of the British Beauty Council, told Femail they are working with trade industry bodies on a set of hygiene and safety guidelines which can be applied across the board in salons and retail.
Social distancing will mean a reduction in clients and customers over a working day, and staff might have to work on shorter shifts. They are also encouraging firms to purchase personal protective equipment for staff.
She said it is ‘unlikely’ makeovers and testers will continue – and they are working with the British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology and the National Hairdressers’ Federation on a ‘new way of working’.
Headmasters told Femail it is planning for staff to wear PPE ‘if made available’ but said it would not be stockpiling until advised to prepare by the government. The company said staff ‘do not want to remove valuable resources from the market that are needed by people working on the frontline and imagine the government will advise face masks as a minimum for protection.’ The company also said it is ‘preparing partition screens’ between sections of its salons and ‘at the backwash’ to create physical barriers between clients and limit face-to-face contact with staff. Salons may only be run at half capacity with empty sections between each client, and with varied opening times and shift patterns which could help maintain the two metre distance rule.
TONI & GUY
Toni & Guy told Femail that the chain will be led by government advice when it comes to the timing of its reopening and its approach. ‘Most important is for us to offer a safe environment for our clients and our teams,’ a spokesman said. She added that salons will operate with a ‘client promise’ which includes ‘gold standard hygiene, social distancing measures, and team and client personal protective equipment’. The spokesman also said the chain will ‘continue to evolve these plans in line with government advice before re-opening’
JAMIE STEVENS, celebrity hairdresser
The celebrity hairdresser said his outlet in Clapham, South London, brought in various safety measures in the fortnight before it had to shut, including paper cups for drinks, single use disposable but recyclable towels and hand sanitiser. He added: ‘Many salon owners know that the come back from COVID-19 will mean a busy period. We could say at this point that we are expecting hair salons to be as busy as our Christmas periods. To cope with the high demand, we plan to extend our opening hours at first and potentially bring on a new talented stylist to join the brand.’ Mr Stevens also admitted there will be ‘a lot of clients still concerned with the cleanliness of salons and what precautions are being put in place to maintain their safety’.
JOE HEMMINGS, Salon of the Year winner
Joe Hemmings, the director of Bloggs Salons in Bristol, said he was expecting ‘to be inundated with clients when we re-open’. He told Femail he is planning to put the team on split shifts so they can open for longer days, but with fewer clients at a time. The salon will be open 12 hours a day, so rather than a full team working an eight-hour shift, they will be split up onto earlier and lates. The salon will also stagger appointments by 15 minutes so people aren’t arriving and sitting in reception or at backwashes at the same time. He added that they will be continuing with a cash-free policy, adding: ‘I think we’ll be seeing gloves as standard, but I’d be led by government guidance on masks.’
THE SUNBED ASSOCIATION
Gilly Perkins, general manager of The Sunbed Association, told Femail how despite tanning salons having ‘no physical contact between staff and customers’, they are taking steps to ensure social distancing standards are upheld. Measures include floor stickers to maintain a two-metre distance, screen guards on reception areas, and removing any unnecessary ‘clutter’ from the salon as well as sunbed cleaner and towels to be provided in every cubicle. She added that they will advising restrictions on the numbers of people in the salon, personal protective equipment for staff, hand-sanitiser for customers on entering and exiting the salon and posters with information for customers on salon use protocols.
** Are you a beauty worker concerned about returning to work in a salon? Email: [email protected] **
FINANCIAL SERVICES AND BANKS
Bank executives have said having thousands of workers in one building ‘may be a thing of the past’ as they signalled a shift in the way the banking industry operates in the future following the coronavirus pandemic.
Some banks could use their branches as alternate sites for investment bankers and call centre workers and workers in the corporate bank, while many employees can now do their job using technology at home.
As well as keeping staff apart in office buildings, there are also concerns over how social distancing could work within branches, and ensuring these services are reserved only for people who really need them.
It also comes amid a debate over whether coronavirus will signal the end for cash, with a survey by product design company Foolproof today finding 25 per cent of people will now use cash machines less in the future.
Barclays chief executive Jes Staley has said the virus will have a lasting impact on where staff work, in a sign that the lender may give up most of its towering HQ. Around 70,000 of the 80,000 employees are working from home with just a handful of the 7,000 who usually work in Canary Wharf, London, coming in to the office. Others are in branches, operating with social distancing measures, while a few are going in to call centres. Mr Staley said: ‘Putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past. We will find ways to operate with more distancing.’
HSBC had been due to lay off 35,000 employees amid the pandemic, but said this week that the staff shake-up would be put on hold. Chief executive Noel Quinn said he takes the ‘wellbeing of our people extremely seriously’ and so has paused most redundancies related to changes announced in February. The bank is hoping to shrink its investment bank, which could help with social distancing within existing offices. On March 5, it sent home 100 staff from Canary Wharf after an employee tested positive for the virus – before all staff went home on March 13.
LLOYDS BANKING GROUP
The financial services union Accord said Lloyds is now looking at installing social distancing dots outside problem branches to show customers where to queue to get into the site, and reviewing customer data to investigate who is coming into branches and why. They are also hoping to issue colleagues with a ‘key worker’ lanyard to wear in branch, and look further at how they can minimise exposure for staff. It comes after a survey by trade union BTU found 56 per cent of Lloyds staff not working from home thought their office or branch was not being cleaned properly. Some 60,000 Lloyds staff are thought to be working from home during the pandemic.
ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND
The Royal Bank of Scotland has said it has no plans for sweeping redundancies, and is trying to keep costs low while the crisis drags on. Chairman Sir Howard Davies said yesterday: ‘At this point we are not envisaging a large redundancy programme.’ State-backed RBS held its AGM yesterday as planned in Edinburgh, but had only five employee shareholders there to meet legal requirements. Staff are limiting the number of customers in branches which are still open, although core opening hours have been changed to Monday to Friday, from 10am to 1pm.
Standard Chartered has warned that it might suggest staff keep working from home even after the coronavirus crisis is over. Chairman José Vinals said the ‘experience so far has been rather good’, adding that about 70 per cent of its 86,000-strong workforce are now working from home. He also said that staff are ‘all going to be a lot more productive as a result of the experiences we have had’. On April 14, Standard Chartered became the first major global bank to tell employees not to use Zoom video chats during the pandemic due to cybersecurity concerns. Staff at the bank who are working from home are said to be mostly using Blue Jeans instead.
Bristol-based financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown said it had ‘moved as many people as we can out of the office’ with only essential workers left who are applying social distancing across its three sites. The company added that it will move people back into the office when possible on a ‘very phased basis’, which it expects will take a number of weeks. It has directional signs so people walk only one way and barriers in place to keep people distanced around kitchens, communal areas and meeting rooms. They also expect those employees who are vulnerable or living with vulnerable people will be in lockdown ‘longer than anyone else’.
** Are you a finance worker concerned about the return to work? Email: [email protected] **
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