OUTSOURCING firm Capita is to close over a third of its offices in the UK permanently – despite the Tory government launching a new drive yesterday to attempt to ‘get people back to the office’.
The firm, which is a major government contractor, is to end its leases on almost 100 workplaces.
Bosses’ organisation the CBI fears that city centres will become ‘ghost towns’ if employees do not return to work.
Nine out of 10 UK employees who have worked from home during lockdown would like to continue doing so in some form, according to a survey by academics at Cardiff and Southampton universities.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to many businesses announcing they are giving up their office space, with BP (British Petroleum) the latest to draw up plans to sell its headquarters.
The oil giant, which employs 6,500 staff in its London and Surrey-based offices, plans to lease the building back from the new owner for up to two years until moving out permanently.
This comes alongside news that banks could also be moving away from working in big office blocks in the near future by converting underused parts of their high street branches into space to work.
Virgin Money (VMUK.L) and Metro Bank (MTRO.L) have already made plans to convert parts of branches into flexible working space, according to the FT. The report also said Lloyds Banking Group (LYG) would begin testing similar measures from October.
Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘Most jobs are created at smaller and medium-sized companies. Smaller businesses cannot be up and running unless big companies get staff back to the office.
‘It’s very selfish of big companies to say, as some have, their staff won’t be going back until January. It will lead to massive job losses.’
Meanwhile, more than a quarter of a million workers at British firms have beenlaid off since the beginning of coronavirus pandemic.
Gatwick Airport, sandwich chain Pret a Manger, and BMW Mini were the latest to axe jobs last week, meaning around 255,000 roles have been cut or marked for the chop since March.
This number includes overseas workers laid off by British firms. But now more than 153,000 positions have been slashed in the UK alone.
Pret a Manger announced it was cutting 2,800 jobs last week as it closed 30 stores, due to fewer office staff going into work. Gatwick Airport is slashing 600 jobs amid a nightmare for the travel sector.
BMW has said 400 agency personnel working at its Mini car factory in Oxford are losing their jobs.
Labour’s shadow business minister, Lucy Powell, said no one should be forced ‘to choose between their health and their job’ and the government should ‘categorically rule out’ any campaign suggesting people could be out of a job if they refused to return to the office.