Thursday 27 August 2020 8:19 am

UK firms must return to the office to revive the economy, says CBI boss

The head of the CBI has warned of “ghost town Britain” as she calls on UK firms to return to the office to revive the economy.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn has called on the Prime Minister to do more to get office workers back to the office.

Read more: No plans to return to the office for millions of workers

Writing in the Daily Mail, Fairbairn warned commercial centres risked being permanent “ghost towns”. The CBI boss added that the return of office workers was as important as the return of school pupils.

“The UK’s offices are vital drivers of our economy,’ said the head of the CBI. “They support thousands of local firms, from dry cleaners to sandwich bars. They help train and develop young people. And they foster better work and productivity for many kinds of business.”

“The costs of office closure are becoming clearer by the day. Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade. This comes at a high price for local businesses, jobs and communities.”

The CBI director-general echoes calls from other business leaders who are keen for staff to return as government support schemes start to unwind and thousands of the UK’s businesses are at risk of going under.

It comes after the government dropped the “stay at home” advice to encourage people back to work and support local businesses. The Prime Minister said “start to go back to work now if you can” and ordered Whitehall to plan for a return of civil servants.

But recent reports suggest the majority of UK civil servants are expected to continue work remotely until the end of the year, despite Boris Johnson’s attempts.

The CBI’s calls also come after a number of companies told staff there is no obligation to return to the office full time as remote working during lockdown proved to be successful.

Read more: Brits more hesitant to return to the office than European neighbours

Fears over the future of city centres are growing as recent analysis shows just 17 per cent of people had returned to work in the UK’s 63 biggest cities, unchanged from June when lockdown started to lift.

Yesterday IG became the latest City firm to tell staff there is no need to return to the office if they do not want to.

In a memo seen by City A.M., the online trading firm’s chief operating officer Jon Noble told UK employees that they can continue working from home until the end of 2020.