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Will PAs become casualty of WFH? 500 secretaries at Deloitte are told their jobs are at risk

Are YOU a PA who has been affected?

More than 500 secretaries at Deloitte could lose their job after 20,000 employees were told they can choose whether to work from home, the office or a mix of both from July 19, it was revealed today.

Big businesses appear to be adopting ‘hybrid models’ for staff and this will speed up the digitisation of staff services meaning that fewer PAs may be needed to handle meetings, diary management and HR matters.

Deloitte, who told its 20,000 UK staff they can work from home if they like, is considering making at least one third of secretarial staff redundant, according to the NHS, and would save then £4million-a-year. 

Instead there would be ‘pools’ of secretaries for staff to use – with only the most senior management retaining personal PAs. 

The official guidance telling people to ‘work from home if you can’ will be scrapped on July 19 in England, it emerged today. But it will be left up to employers and their staff to decide whether they have to go back to their desks. 

It comes as a lobby group of 50 business leaders, London First, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to beg that working from home be ‘no longer the default’.  

Deloitte, who told its 20,000 UK staff they can work from home if they like, is considering making at least one third of secretarial staff redundant, according to the NHS, and would save then £4million-a-year

Boris Johnson is ready to ditch the ‘work from home’ guidance – but it will be left to employers and their staff to decide when workers go back to their desks with most big businesses offering workers freedom to choose or a 'hybrid' model

Boris Johnson is ready to ditch the ‘work from home’ guidance – but it will be left to employers and their staff to decide when workers go back to their desks with most big businesses offering workers freedom to choose or a ‘hybrid’ model

The letter, seen by The Times, read: ‘At this critical moment, we believe that it is essential that the government is unambiguous in its communications that when the ”stage four” restrictions lift, public transport is safe, offices are safe, and work-from-home is no longer the default.

‘Employers can then move forward with plans for new ways of working, considering the needs of their staff, clients and customers.’ 

Signatories of the letter include BT CEO Philip Jansen and the chief executive of Capita Jonathan Lewis. 

Markets analyst Fiona Cincotta, who works for City Index, said the big question is whether companies and the Government will put up ‘boundaries and borders’ about working from home guidance in order to protect the economy.

It comes as a lobby group of 50 business leaders, London First, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to beg that working from home be 'no longer the default'. Pictured: London

It comes as a lobby group of 50 business leaders, London First, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to beg that working from home be ‘no longer the default’. Pictured: London

Boris Johnson's 'work from home if you can' rule is set to be formally abandoned as part of the lifting of the remaining lockdown restrictions on July 19. Stock picture

Boris Johnson’s ‘work from home if you can’ rule is set to be formally abandoned as part of the lifting of the remaining lockdown restrictions on July 19. Stock picture

She said: ‘The pandemic has changed the way we are working and working from home more is going to have consequences for the way the jobs market is structured, where jobs are and also geographically as well.

‘And yes having fewer assistants is more likely because more people are working from home. And I think a lot of companies that aren’t going to give workers the complete freedom to choose where they work, there will definitely be a hybrid version. I think it is very unlikely we’ll going to see working the full five days back in the office, which does mean that some jobs may no longer be necessary any more’.

She added: ‘There will be a knock on effect on coffee shops, city centre businesses. And when people apply for jobs, a consideration will be: ‘How much will I be expected to work in the office?’

Deloitte is the latest of several companies to announce plans for hybrid working, following Asda, Lloyds, Barclays and HSBC Banks, as well as call-centre operator Capita and British Gas owner Centrica. 

Many town and city centres (Winchester pictured) have suffered amid the move to home-working, and there are concerns it has hit productivity

Many town and city centres (Winchester pictured) have suffered amid the move to home-working, and there are concerns it has hit productivity

Boris Johnson’s ‘work from home if you can’ rule is set to be formally abandoned as part of the lifting of the remaining lockdown restrictions on July 19.

But Government sources have said that individual firms and their staff would be left to determine when and how workers return to the office.

And ministers will not launch a campaign encouraging them to do so as they are resigned to there not being a mass return this summer.

The approach is unlikely to do down well with senior Tories who have said the Prime Minister must tell workers to go back to the office to help fire up Britain’s economy. 

Many town centres have already felt the impact of the move to home working, while there are concerns it has hit productivity.

Asda became the latest firm to announce that it will allow head office staff to work from home on a permanent basis. The supermarket said it will introduce a hybrid model for the around 4,000 employees at its two main bases in Leeds and Leicester.

Employees will be able to work from any location best suited to their job. Bosses said there will be no set number of days staff will be expected in the office but they should talk to their managers to ‘strike the right balance between home and office working, whilst ensuring this is led by the needs of the business’. 

Ministers are expected to meet next week to finalise plans for removing the work from home advice.

A Cabinet source: ‘It will be left up to employers working with their employees. The reality is coming into the summer probably there will be some people who choose to keep working from home.

‘I am not sure if it will be a rush back to the cities as July and August are always quiet anyway.’

Sir Iain Duncan Smith last night urged ministers to do all they can to encourage people back to the workplace.

The former Conservative leader said: ‘Instead of saying ‘work from home if you can’, they should say ‘work from the office if you can’.

‘But of course they won’t because they are gripped by fear. The main characteristic of the Government at the moment is that they are scared stiff.

‘Ministers are petrified of making a decision and getting it wrong.’

Sir Iain said a rapid return to the office would have a ‘massive’ positive impact on the economy.

‘City centres rely on people working there. Look at London, goodness gracious me.

Ministers will not launch a campaign encouraging workers to return to the office because they are resigned to there not being a mass return this summer (file photo)

Ministers will not launch a campaign encouraging workers to return to the office because they are resigned to there not being a mass return this summer (file photo)

‘It accounts for almost a quarter of the UK economy and it is dead. We have got to get people to work, no questions.’

A final decision on lifting restrictions will not be made until July 12, but the Mail revealed yesterday a plan will be published to give business and individuals more time to adjust.

The PM has prioritised scrapping the one-metre rule, along with the rule of six on indoor socialising, which are seen as the biggest brakes on the economy.

Rules limiting outdoor gatherings to no more than 30 will also go, and businesses such as nightclubs, which have been forced to close throughout the pandemic, will finally be allowed to reopen.

Ministers have also shelved plans to legally require people to use vaccine passports to control entry to mass events, although organisers will be permitted to set their own requirements for ticket-holders.

A Deloitte spokesperson said: ‘We are consulting on proposed changes to executive assistant (EA) roles at Deloitte, which, unfortunately, could lead to some redundancies.

‘We know this will be difficult news for those affected and we are supporting our people during this process.’ 


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