HSBC and Goldman Sachs delay plans for return to offices in England

HSBC and Goldman Sachs have postponed plans to bring staff back to the office in England after the government’s U-turn on its back-to-work drive.

A memo sent to staff at HSBC informed them that the investment bank, based in London’s Canary Wharf financial district, was pausing its planned return of “phase one” teams to the office.

Businesses warn Boris Johnson over U-turn on office working

The bank said its staff working in branches and those supporting customers in call centres would continue to go into work, although the majority of office-based staff would work from home.

Goldman Sachs was one of the first banks to bring some of its 6,000 UK workers back into its London building from mid-June but has postponed plans to expand the operation by bringing back staff on rotating basis.

Richard Gnodde, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs’ international operations, informed staff in a memo that its offices would remain open for employees “who need to be in the office”.

Gnodde added that the firm would “continue to take steps to sustain a safe, Covid-compliant working environment, in accordance with our own precautionary measures and UK government guidance”.

The bank told staff their health and wellbeing remained its “top priority” and reminded workers who do attend the office that they are required to wear masks at all times, except when at their desk, and must respect physical distancing.

The Goldman Sachs rotation plan was focused on staff in highly regulated roles or who struggled to work from home.

In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening, Boris Johnson announced new restrictions designed to contain the spread of coronavirus and urged office workers in England to work from home if possible.

Barclays bank announced on Tuesday that about 1,000 of its staff, who returned to the office in recent weeks after the government’s previous drive to “get Britain back to the office”, would revert to homeworking.

The guidance to work from home where possible had been kept in place since the spring by the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The change in government guidance for England comes less than a month after Downing Street said it was planning an advertising campaign to tempt workers back to their desks, partly as a way to revive struggling city centres.

Footfall in city centres across the country has remained persistently low since lockdown restrictions were eased, hurting the coffee and sandwich shops and other service businesses that rely on office workers, tourists and visitors for their trade.

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