Just one in five office staff returned to their desk last month as new research reveals reluctance of many to end working from home
- The same data suggests Brits are keener to head into town centres to socialise
- Findings were based on anonymous mobile phone data and showed an average night time footfall in city centres of 59 percent of pre-pandemic levels
- Research prompted fresh calls for Government to do more to support city businesses that rely on office workers who are still largely absent
Fewer than one in five workers have returned to their offices since ‘Freedom Day’ last month, according to research.
However, the same data suggests Britons are keener to venture back into town centres to socialise – though overall footfall still remains half that of pre-pandemic levels.
The research is more evidence of the reluctance of many to get back to the office after well over a year of working from home.
Restrictions were eased on July 19 but the Centre for Cities think-tank found only 18 per cent of staff in the 31 largest cities had returned to their city centre workplace a week later. In London, only 15 per cent of workers were back in the week starting July 26.
Yet Brighton saw a six percentage point increase – with almost half of workers (49 per cent) back in the office at the end of last month, compared with the pre-pandemic figure.
The findings, based on anonymised mobile phone data, suggest Britons are keener to return to city centres at night – with average footfall now back at 59 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The research is more evidence of the reluctance of many to get back to the office after well over a year of working from home [Stock image]
Night-time footfall in London stands at just 47 per cent, but towns and cities in the North, such as Sunderland at 84 per cent, have seen a greater bounce back. Only Bournemouth and Blackpool – popular tourist destinations – have recovered overall to their pre-pandemic levels.
Centre for Cities’ director of policy and research Paul Swinney said: ‘People’s eagerness, particularly in cities in the North and Midlands, to go out and socialise has been a lifeline for many businesses in the night-time economy.
‘But a reluctance to head back to the office in our largest and most economically important cities means that people in the so-called ‘sandwich economy’ that caters to city centre office workers face an uncertain future as we get closer to the end of the furlough scheme in September.’
25% of companies refuse to give staff paid time off for Covid jabs
One in four firms has refused to give staff paid time off for Covid jabs and has no plans to allow it, a survey has revealed.
Employers are facing calls to ensure that all workers are allowed time to access the life-saving vaccinations without losing out on earnings.
Conciliation service Acas carried out the survey of 2,000 businesses, with 25 per cent saying they do not offer staff paid time off to get vaccinated and will not change their policy.
A further 4 per cent said they had not so far allowed this, but plan to in the future. The findings led to calls for employers to provide ‘flexibility’ for staff who need to take time away from work to get a jab.
John Foster, of the Confederation of British Industry, said the vaccination programme was ‘crucial’ in helping the economy adjust following the pandemic.
He added: ‘The vast majority of businesses are continuing their commitment to protecting staff and customers during the pandemic. This includes showing flexibility when the time comes for their staff to get the jab. We’d encourage all companies to demonstrate this same level of consideration towards their employees.’
Last night Labour warned that failing to allow employees to leave work to get their vaccinations without cutting their pay would put people ‘at risk’.
The findings prompted fresh calls for the Government to do more to support struggling city centre businesses.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls told the Mail: ‘City centre hospitality businesses, and sectors such as contract catering, have not only suffered the effects of restrictions and enforced closures but also significantly reduced footfall as a result of the pandemic.
‘It’s vital that if there is to be a full recovery for the hospitality sector, in turn powering the wider economy, that our city centres are not left deserted and neglected.
‘While we have seen a welcome return of loyal customers to many of their favourite venues, we urge the Government to do everything it can to support the thousands of venues in our city centres still struggling to get back on their feet.’
Meanwhile, recruitment firm Reed said it had seen a jump in job vacancies advertising remote working – from 1 per cent before the pandemic to 5 per cent now.
Chris Adcock, managing director of Reed Technology, told the BBC: ‘During the pandemic we were forced into home working, and everyone got a bit of a taste for it.
‘We’ve seen people are twice as likely to apply for a job if it’s advertised as remote.’ It comes following a row over whether civil servants should have their pay cut if they refuse to return to Whitehall.
The suggestion by a Cabinet minister to the Mail, which was slapped down by the Government, sparked a furious backlash from unions.
But senior Conservative backbencher Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said yesterday that civil servants ‘certainly shouldn’t be getting London weighting if they aren’t coming into the office’.
He said he suspected ‘a lot of people are not as productive at home’, and that while he was not opposed to flexible working, staff should be encouraged to spend some days each week in the office.
‘I would have thought that if you have got a civil servants’ job, you should be expected to come back a few days a week. That should be linked in some way to bonuses, because I don’t think that you are as productive at home as you are in the office.’