Banks have rushed to pause plans for staff to return to their UK offices following fresh government guidance on coronavirus.
Deutsche Bank and Citigroup have also encouraged staff to return to work remotely amid concerns over rising Covid-19 cases.
The banks’ changes in advice to staff come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a televised plea to the British public to take action now to limit the spread of coronavirus in the UK and prevent a second wave of infections overwhelming the country.
HSBC said it will stop the return of so-called phase one teams to its UK offices, according to a memo issued yesterday. Staff were told that requests to enter the office for one-off reasons such as collecting equipment would no longer be allowed except in “exceptional circumstances”.
Critical workers who support customers in branches and those in a small number of open offices will continue to come into work, the lender said, but the majority of its staff would remain at home.
In a staff memo seen by City A.M., Goldman Sachs also put plans to increase the number of staff returning to its London office on pause, but the US banking giant said it would “remain open” for those who “need to be in the office”.
The lender had planned to bring back almost 2,500 staff return to the office on a rotating basis, but said it would put the plans on hold in a memo sent to staff last night.
“Following the UK government’s announcement last night, we have taken the decision to suspend our plans to return more employees to the office,” a Deutsche Bank spokesperson told City A.M.
The lender’s London headquarters will remain open for staff who need to work from the office, they added.
Citigroup has told staff based in London to “exercise their own judgment” in deciding whether they need to come into the office, according to an internal memo sent last night by David Livingstone, the lender’s head of EMEA.
Citi, which employs 5,000 staff in the capital, said its London office would remain open for those that have a “personal or business need” to be there, Bloomberg reported.
The UK recorded its highest number of new Covid-19 infections in four months yesterday, with a further 4,926 people testing positive for the virus. Some 37 coronavirus-related deaths were also recorded – the highest number of daily fatalities since 14 July.
Financial firms have moved to reverse efforts to return staff to the office following the new government guidance. Around 1,000 Barclays staff will return to working from home, the bank announced yesterday, while staff at insurance market Lloyd’s of London have also been asked to remain at home.