Ma­jor­ity of RBS work­ers won’t re­turn to the of­fice un­til next year

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Michael O’Dwyer

ROYAL Bank of Scot­land has told more than 50,000 staff they will be work­ing from home un­til next year in a blow to Boris John­son’s ef­forts to get em­ploy­ees back to the of­fice.

The NatWest owner has told the vast ma­jor­ity of its em­ploy­ees that they will con­tinue to do their jobs re­motely un­til at least the end of De­cem­ber.

The bank had ini­tially hoped to start bring­ing its work­ers back four months ear­lier.

Its de­ci­sion will be viewed with con­cern in White­hall, af­ter the Prime Min­is­ter said on Fri­day that staff should try to re­turn to of­fices next month in a shift away from ex­ist­ing guid­ance that people should work from home if pos­si­ble.

Of­fi­cials are in­creas­ingly con­cerned that town and city cen­tres face ruin un­less work­ers head back in, with cafés, shops, bars and restau­rants all strug­gling to sur­vive.

RBS is 62pc-owned by the tax­payer following a £45bn bailout dur­ing the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

A spokesman said: “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.”

The bank, which will re­brand as NatWest to­mor­row, plans to pro­vide fur­ther guid­ance later this year.

Its lat­est up­date cov­ers global op­er­a­tions, but most of those af­fected are in the UK.

The bank said its ap­proach will dif­fer across ju­ris­dic­tions as the sit­u­a­tion and of­fi­cial advice will dif­fer from country to country.

About 10,000 RBS staff have con­tin­ued to work in branches and of­fices dur­ing the pan­demic, with al­most all branches op­er­at­ing re­duced hours.

The bank called 400 staff back into of­fices and call cen­tres in June be­cause strict reg­u­la­tions mean their jobs can­not be car­ried out from home for long pe­ri­ods. It has im­posed social dis­tanc­ing and other mea­sures to limit the spread of Covid-19, in­clud­ing oneway cor­ri­dors, tem­per­a­ture checks and ther­mal imag­ing.

The an­nounce­ment comes af­ter busi­nesses warned last week that there is un­likely to be a “big bang” on Aug 1, the date when min­is­ters want more work­ers to re­turn.

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