Boris Johnson will launch a major drive to persuade more Britons to return to their workplaces as remote workers were warned they could be more at risk of being sacked.
The Government is increasingly concerned that continued working from home will deal a hammer blow to struggling town and city centres.
The Prime Minister is expected to step up his efforts next week to get more people back to their normal routines by reassuring the public that ‘the workplace is a safe place’.
The prospect of a new campaign to encourage commuters to return to their offices will be welcomed by Tory MPs who today warned that businesses in urban centres are facing ‘devastating consequences’ if things do not go back to normal.
But Labour has accused ministers of ‘threatening’ workers and of ‘forcing’ them to make an ‘unconscionable’ choice between their health and their job after a Government source said people who continue working from home could be the first to go if firms restructure.
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today said he believed there is a limit ‘in human terms’ to remote working as he argued people will want to return to workplaces to see their colleagues.
He also insisted that public transport services will be increased if trains and buses get too busy when more workers resume their commutes.
Boris Johnson will next week launch a major back to work drive amid gorwing fears over the fate of struggling town and city centres
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be worried of further job losses among businesses that depend on office workers, such as sandwich shops, pubs and gyms – along with the cost of running nearly empty buses and trains.
A Government source told The Telegraph: ‘People need to understand that working from home is not the benign option it seems.
‘We need workers to be alert to what decisions their bosses may take in the weeks ahead. If they are only seeing workers once a fortnight then that could prove problematic for some employees in the future.
‘We want employees to be careful what working arrangements they accept. Suddenly the word ‘restructure’ is bandied about and people who have been working from home find themselves in the most vulnerable position.’
Labour’s shadow minister for business Lucy Powell said: ‘It beggars belief that the Government are threatening people like this during a pandemic.
‘Forcing people to choose between their health and their job is unconscionable.
‘Number 10 should condemn this briefing and categorically rule out any such campaign.’
Another Government source subsequently rubbished the briefing given to the Telegraph as they said there was ‘no truth behind it’.
However, A Cabinet minister told the newspaper: ‘Clearly people should be going back to work because it is safe to do so.
‘There are already problems with workers’ mental health. People need company especially those living on their own or with a limited support network.
‘There will be some economic consequences of shutdown. Companies will realise some people weren’t working as hard as they thought. There is going to be a review of how productive people are.’
Ministers remain under intense pressure from Tory MPs to do more to get workers back into offices.
They are urging Mr Johnson to deliver a ‘clear and consistent message’ that going back to work is safe as they warned of ‘devastating consequences’ for city centres.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, told The Times: ‘The Government must have a clear and simple message that civil servants should show the way and get back to work.
‘They’ve got to stop mixing that message. The reality is that small businesses that provide the vast majority of jobs in the UK rely on people in city centres being back in their offices.
‘If they do not go back many of those businesses will collapse, which will lead to higher unemployment and in turn impact on people’s mental and physical health.’
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, echoed a similar sentiment.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, said the Government needs a ‘clear and simple message’ that returning to offices is safe while Sir Graham Brady said town centres face ‘devastating consequences’ if workers do not return
Conservative MPs urged Mr Johnson to ‘wake up’ to the threat to town centres last night as Pret a Manger slashed nearly 3,000 jobs
He said: ‘Of course there are some businesses which find their staff are just as productive working from home. What is essential is that the government gives a clear and consistent message that is perfectly safe for people to return to town.
‘They should not be worried about infections as a result of travelling on trains and buses. We can all see the devastating consequences for many businesses when a huge proportion of the customers on whom they depend aren’t coming into our towns and cities.’
It came as Mr Shapps suggested many people will want to go back to their places of work because there is a limit ‘in human terms’ to remote working.
Speaking on Sky News, the Transport Secretary said: ‘What we’re saying to people is it is now safe to go back to work and your employer should have made arrangements which are appropriate to make sure that it is coronavirus-safe to work and you will see some changes if you haven’t been in for a bit as a result.’
He added: ‘We’re absolutely clear that employers and employees need to work together to resolve this and there are of course a whole host of sort of employee protections in place if employees have concerns about the work place for example, then the Health and Safety Executive, the local authority will be the right places to go.
‘The vast majority of employers just want to get their businesses back up and running, they want to do the right thing, and many will have found that actually home working can work for some of their employees.
‘But as I say, I think there’s a limit, just in human terms, to remote working. And there are things where you just need to spark off each other and get together in order to make progress.
‘So I think common sense will prevail between employers and employees. It’s certainly what we’ve seen so far and I very much think that will carry on next week as people do start to return more often to the office.’
Mr Shapps said more services will be put on if areas of the transport system become too busy.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘So at the moment the trains are – all the public transport is very much underused – probably at about a third of its usual levels.
‘We think now, with the guidance that is in place, and it was updated, if you recall, just before the summer, that there is capacity now for more people on public transport.’
He added: ‘We think that we’ve got the right balance in place. But I’m not going to sort of pretend this is all straight forward, it is not.
‘Everyone knows the restrictions that this virus has brought to bear and we will be watching it very, very carefully next week.
CBI chief Dame Carolyn Fairbairn warned in the Mail that Britain risks becoming a nation of ‘ghost towns’ unless people return to their workplaces
Pret has suffered a 60 per cent slump in takings, leaving it no choice but to axe 2,800 jobs – around a third of its workforce (pictured: Trade Secretary Liz Truss at a Westminster branch)
‘As I say, often the first few days of school in particular when a lot more people are using public transport – partly because also parents tend to go back to work when their children are at school – that does tend to create pressures and we’ll watching those very carefully and looking to, for example in some cases, run additional services where we see those problems bubble up.’
Conservative MPs last night urged Mr Johnson to ‘wake up’ to the threat to town centres as Pret a Manger slashed nearly 3,000 jobs.
The sandwich chain became the latest victim of the working-from-home culture after seeing a decade of growth wiped out in months.
Pret has suffered a 60 per cent slump in takings, leaving it with no choice but to axe 2,800 jobs – around a third of its workforce.
It is also cutting store opening hours to reflect the collapse in footfall in towns, city centres and transport hubs. A further 1,000 jobs were saved only after staff agreed to a shorter working week.
The move came hours after CBI chief Dame Carolyn Fairbairn warned in the Mail that Britain risks becoming a nation of ‘ghost towns’ unless people return to their workplaces.
Compulsory face masks in the office will make it harder to get workers back to their desks, business leaders warn
Compulsory face masks in the workplace could stifle efforts to get more staff back into the office, business leaders have warned.
As businesses across the country begin to open their offices once again, companies now fear a ‘blanket rule’ making masks mandatory could hamper efforts to bring their staff back into work.
It comes after a survey of 8,000 workers, carried out by ManpowerGroup, from eight countries found that workers from the UK and the U.S. were the most reluctant to return to the office due to fears of a second wave of coronavirus.
The Go-Ahead group, one of Britain’s largest bus and train operators, urged the PM to ‘lead from the front’ by getting on a bus to show commuters that public transport is safe.
Government sources insist Mr Johnson is fully aware of the need to get more office workers back to their desks, but has to prioritise the return of schoolchildren next week.
A No10 source said: ‘The Prime Minister is very keen on getting more people back to the workplace.
‘The main focus has to be on getting every civil servant back at their desk.
‘It sets an example to the rest of the country and demonstrates that it can be done safely.’
But the drive has so far seen only a trickle of civil servants return to Whitehall, with unions resisting a widespread return.
Ministers conceded privately that the Government does not have a wider strategy for getting people back to the workplace while the pandemic continues.
High streets and other sectors of the economy have seen a torrent of job losses in recent weeks. Gatwick Airport cut 600 jobs.
Rolls-Royce announced it would close its site in Annesley, Nottinghamshire, weeks after announcing 9,000 aerospace job cuts. Restaurant chain Wahaca is to close ten restaurants and BMW announced the loss of 400 jobs at its Mini factory in Oxford.
A pedestrian wearing a face mask or covering due to the Covid-19 pandemic, walking past shuttered shop fronts on an empty shopping street in London on August 12, 2020
Official figures suggest that 730,000 lost their jobs between March and July. Economists have warned the number out of work could rise to nearly four million by the end of the year.
Pret, which has already announced 30 store closures, said customer numbers have started to recover. However the sales over the past month were back to the levels of ten years ago, when it was a much smaller business.
Trade across its 367 UK shops remains around 60 per cent down year on year. Alongside the 2,800 job losses in shops, a further 90 staff will go in Pret’s support centre teams.
Chief executive Pano Christou said: ‘I’m gutted that we’ve had to lose so many colleagues. Although we’re now starting to see a steady but slow recovery, the pandemic has taken away almost a decade of growth at Pret.
‘We’ve managed to protect many jobs by making changes to the way we run our shops and the hours we ask team members to work.
‘I’m hopeful we’ll be able to review all these changes now that trade is improving again, and I’m encouraged by the improvements we’re seeing every week.
‘We’ll soon be announcing a number of big changes to help bring Pret to more people. We’re grateful to the Government for the support they’ve given our sector, and hope that support will continue as long as possible.’
How more than 187,000 jobs have now been lost or are at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic
Here are the major potential job losses announced since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed on March 23:
- August 25 – Co-operative bank – 350
- August 20 – Alexander Dennis – 650
- August 18 – Bombardier – 95
- August 18 – M&S – 7,000
- August 17: easyJet: 670
- August 17: Jet2: 102
- August 16: Debenhams: 14,000 at risk
- August 14 – John Lewis – 399 at risk
- August 14 – Yo! Sushi – 250
- August 14 – River Island – 350
- August 12 – NatWest – 550
- August 11 – InterContinental Hotels – 650 worldwide
- August 11 – Debenhams – 2,500
- August 7 – Evening Standard – 115
- August 6 – Travelex – 1,300
- August 6 – Wetherspoons – 110 to 130
- August 5 – M&Co – 380
- August 5 – Arsenal FC – 55
- August 5 – WH Smith – 1,500
- August 4 – Dixons Carphone – 800
- August 4 – Pizza Express – 1,100 at risk
- August 3 – Hays Travel – up to 878
- August 3 – DW Sports – 1,700 at risk
- July 31 – Byron – 651
- July 30 – Pendragon – 1,800
- July 29 – Waterstones – unknown number of head office roles
- July 28 – Selfridges – 450
- July 27 – Oak Furnitureland – 163 at risk
- July 23 – Dyson – 600 in UK, 300 overseas
- July 22 – Mears – fewer than 200
- July 20 – Marks & Spencer – 950 at risk
- July 17 – Azzurri Group (owns Zizzi and Ask Italian) – up to 1,200
- July 16 – Genting – 1,642 at risk
- July 16 – Burberry – 150 in UK, 350 overseas
- July 15 – Banks Mining – 250 at risk
- July 15 – Buzz Bingo – 573 at risk
- July 14 – Vertu – 345
- July 14 – DFS – up to 200 at risk
- July 9 – General Electric – 369
- July 9 – Eurostar – unknown number
- July 9 – Boots – 4,000
- July 9 – John Lewis – 1,300 at risk
- July 9 – Burger King – 1,600 at risk
- July 7 – Reach (owns Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers) – 550
- July 6 – Pret a Manger – 1,000 at risk
- July 2 – Casual Dining Group (owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge) – 1,909
- July 1 – SSP (owns Upper Crust) – 5,000 at risk
- July 1 – Arcadia (owns TopShop) – 500
- July 1 – Harrods – 700
- July 1 – Virgin Money – 300
- June 30 – Airbus – 1,700
- June 30 – TM Lewin – 600
- June 30 – Smiths Group – ‘some job losses’
- June 25 – Royal Mail – 2,000
- June 24 – Jet2 – 102
- June 24 – Swissport – 4,556
- June 24 – Crest Nicholson – 130
- June 23 – Shoe Zone – unknown number of jobs in head office
- June 19 – Aer Lingus – 500
- June 17 – HSBC – unknown number of jobs in UK, 35,000 worldwide
- June 15 – Jaguar Land Rover – 1,100
- June 15 – Travis Perkins – 2,500
- June 12 – Le Pain Quotidien – 200
- June 11 – Heathrow – at least 500
- June 11 – Bombardier – 600
- June 11 – Johnson Matthey – 2,500
- June 11 – Centrica – 5,000
- June 10 – Quiz – 93
- June 10 – The Restaurant Group (owns Frankie and Benny’s) – 3,000
- June 10 – Monsoon Accessorise – 545
- June 10 – Everest Windows – 188
- June 8 – BP – 10,000 worldwide
- June 8 – Mulberry – 375
- June 5 – Victoria’s Secret – 800 at risk
- June 5 – Bentley – 1,000
- June 4 – Aston Martin – 500
- June 4 – Lookers – 1,500
- May 29 – Belfast International Airport – 45
- May 28 – Debenhams (in second announcement) – ‘hundreds’ of jobs
- May 28 – EasyJet – 4,500 worldwide
- May 26 – McLaren – 1,200
- May 22 – Carluccio’s – 1,000
- May 21 – Clarks – 900
- May 20 – Rolls-Royce – 9,000
- May 20 – Bovis Homes – unknown number
- May 19 – Ovo Energy – 2,600
- May 19 – Antler – 164
- May 15 – JCB – 950 at risk
- May 13 – Tui – 8,000 worldwide
- May 12 – Carnival UK (owns P&O Cruises and Cunard) – 450
- May 11 – P&O Ferries – 1,100 worldwide
- May 5 – Virgin Atlantic – 3,150
- May 1 – Ryanair – 3,000 worldwide
- April 30 – Oasis Warehouse – 1,800
- April 29 – WPP – unknown number
- April 28 – British Airways – 12,000
- April 23 – Safran Seats – 400
- April 23 – Meggitt – 1,800 worldwide
- April 21 – Cath Kidston – 900
- April 17 – Debenhams – 422
- March 31 – Laura Ashley – 268
- March 30 – BrightHouse – 2,400 at risk
- March 27 – Chiquito – 1,500 at risk.
Rolls-Royce ‘may not survive’ after suffering a record £5.4billion loss following a collapse in air travel
By Francesca Washtell, City Correspondent for the Daily Mail
Rolls-Royce yesterday warned it was struggling to survive after suffering a record £5.4billion loss following a collapse in air travel in the pandemic.
The jet engine maker – one of Britain’s most prestigious companies – is fighting to shore up its finances. The Derby-based firm gets paid according to the number of hours flown by planes fitted with its engines.
It only makes engines for larger aircraft that fly long-haul routes which have been badly hit in the crisis.
Rolls believes business will not pick back up to 2019 levels until 2025. It has already announced plans to cut 9,000 jobs and this week said factories in Nottinghamshire and Lancashire would close.
Rolls Royce’s plant in Derbyshire is set to become the focus of its manufacturing and testing, as it looks to close five sites worldwide
Rolls Royce CEO Warren East said the company had to ‘protect profit,’ as it prepares to cut another 1,000 jobs in the next four months
Experts have warned the Government could be forced to step in to save the 114-year-old firm from collapse. In its financial results for the first half of the year, Rolls said a longer downturn could kill off the company.
It insisted the Covid crisis had posed ‘material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt on the group’s ability to continue as a going concern’.
Chief executive Warren East said the best thing ministers could do for the company was to make it easier for people to start travelling longer distances again.
The company, which employs 52,000 people, wants to raise £2billion by selling off parts of the business in a restructure.
A large chunk of Rolls’ loss – £2.6billion – was down to an accounting charge linked to currency movements.
Meanwhile, one of Britain’s biggest transport providers yesterday urged Boris Johnson to ‘lead from the front’ to get commuters back to the office.
The Go-Ahead Group, which operates bus and rail franchises across the UK, wants the PM to reassure Britons public transport is safe to use again.
The firm’s Katy Taylor said passenger numbers were still running below 40 per cent of capacity. She urged the PM to get on a bus to help dispel fears about safety.
She stressed: ‘If the Government really wants the country to get back to work it has to lead from the front and encourage people back on to the train and bus.’
Hasn’t Matt Hancock got the message? Health Secretary undermines Boris Johnson’s ‘back to work’ message by saying he was happy for his officials to work from home
By Jason Groves, Political Editor for the Daily Mail
Matt Hancock undermined Boris Johnson’s ‘back to work’ message yesterday by saying he was happy for his officials to continue working from home.
The Health Secretary opened up a Cabinet rift over efforts to get civil servants back to their desks by saying his officials were welcome to work from home provided they got the job done.
The Prime Minister has ordered Whitehall chiefs to get civil servants back to their desks as part of a wider push to revive the economy.
In an interview on Times Radio, Mr Hancock was asked if he knew what percentage of staff in the Department for Health were working at home. ‘I have absolutely no idea,’ he responded
An estimated 95 per cent of civil servants worked from home during lockdown, leaving Whitehall deserted.
And, despite the PM’s order to return last month, insiders suggest at least 80 per cent are still working from home.
Asked how many of his own department’s staff were back at their desks, Mr Hancock yesterday told Times Radio: ‘I have absolutely no idea. What I care about is how effectively people work. Obviously people should come back to the office if that is what they need to do their job.
‘And obviously employers need to make sure the offices are Covid-secure, as we have done for the Department of Health, as you would fully expect us to.
‘But what I care about is that people perform. Of the people I work with, some have been working from home, some come in… What matters to me is that they deliver.’
An ally of Mr Hancock insisted he supported the push to get more civil servants back to their desks, but said he was ‘totally focused on dealing with the pandemic’.
But a Government source confirmed the PM was serious about getting all civil servants back to their desks this autumn. ‘The main focus has to be on getting every civil servant back at the desk. It sets an example to the rest of the country and demonstrates that it can be done safely,’ the source said.