Numbers of civil servants returning to the office soon will be 'low'

So much for Boris’s back to work push! Government admits numbers of civil servants returning to the office soon will be ‘low’

  • Boris Johnson has been urging people to return to workplaces where it is safe 
  • Government risk assessment says number of civil servants back soon will be low
  • Fears that town and city centres are being hammered by the lack of business 

Questions have been raised over Boris Johnson’s back to work push after the government admitted numbers of civil servants in offices will be ‘low’.

The PM has been urging Britons to return to workplaces where it is safe, amid fears about the huge damage being wreaked to the economy in deserted town and city centres. 

But a risk assessment for Whitehall departments says that while some staff will ‘need’ to come back to the office, ‘the number of people in the workplace will initially remain low compared to our normal capacity numbers’.

The guidance was published amid claims of a civil service revolt, with accusations that ministers are putting public sector staff at risk in the cause of ‘virtue signalling’.

There have been reports that most departments will not be able to operate offices at more than half capacity even in the Autumn. The current level is thought to be around a fifth of the 430,000 workforce. 

Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) has been urging Britons to return to workplaces where it is safe, amid fears about the huge damage being wreaked to the economy in deserted town and city centres

The government’s risk assessment said: ‘There will be some staff who will need to return to the workplace, but the number of people in the workplace will initially remain low compared to our normal capacity numbers.’

It added that the first to return will be those ‘unable to undertake their role or specific tasks required of their role’. as well as staff who cannot work from home due to ‘personal circumstances’.

The guidance stated: ‘During the first phase of our gradual return to our normal workplace, managers should be having conversations with their staff about any potential return to the workplace. 

‘Staff who wish to return to the workplace due to home and/or personal circumstances should speak to their managers and obtain management approval for their return.’ 

Experts believe a long-term trend towards flexible working is likely to change the face of urban centres forever. 

Many businesses are not expecting workers to return to offices until the end of the year, while the likes of Facebook UK and the RBS banking group said staff will not go back until 2021.

Canary Wharf in central London was largely deserted today as many people continue to work from home

Financial services company Legal & General said just 1,200 of its 5,000 staff were back in the office and it was aiming get 80 per cent of its workers back to the office ‘for a day or two per fortnight’.

Advertising giant WPP said 99 per cent of its 11,000 staff continue to work remotely, adding: ‘We will continue to allow people to work from home until they feel safe commuting and coming into work.’ HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, said it expected flexible working to become the norm after the pandemic, reducing its need for office space.

Shell, which has 4,700 UK office workers, said it would start a ‘phased return’ from the end of September.

A report has found 80 per cent of workers claim they are more or equally productive at home as in the office. 

And more than six in ten surveyed by Equiem said they expected to work remotely from the office at least once a week once lockdown is lifted.

Launching his effort to get people back to their desks last month, Mr Johnson said: ‘It’s very important that people should be going back to work if they can now.’

However, he is working from his country retreat Chequers rather than Downing Street for the rest of the week.   

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