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RBS tells 50,000 staff to work from home until 2021 despite government guidance

File photo dated 01/12/17 A branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Dundee. The bank has confirmed it will formally change its name to NatWest Group on July 22 as it looks to shift away from the brand that was bailed out in the financial crisis.
A branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Dundee. Photo: PA

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) has told 50,000 staff they will be working from home until at least next year, despite new government guidance urging people back to the office.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for RBS said: “In May we shared that the vast majority of colleagues working from home would continue to do so until at least the end of September. Today we're confirming that this will remain the case into 2021.”

The decision comes despite the government last week scrapping official guidance that people should work from home if they can. Prime minister Boris Johnson instead said companies could have “more discretion” to decide when and how to bring staff back to the office.

Read more: UK government to end ‘work from home’ guidance

The RBS spokesperson said: “Like we've done throughout the pandemic the decision has been made carefully, including considering the latest guidance from the UK government on Friday [17 July] and our own health and safety standards and procedures. It's a cautious approach but we feel the right one to take currently.”

The move is potentially a blow for the government, which appears to want people to return to the office as part of plans to get the economy moving again. Transport networks and inner city businesses are facing huge shortfalls, with commuters staying home and offices across the UK laying empty.

RBS employs over 60,000 people globally. 50,000 have moved to working remotely since the pandemic struck in March. 10,000 critical staff have continued to work in branches and offices.

“The situation and local government advice will continue to evolve and there will be differences across our jurisdictions,” the RBS spokesperson said. “We're in a fortunate position that so many of our colleagues can work from home and we feel it's the right decision to continue doing so into 2021.”

As part of the decision to keep staff remote for at least the rest of the year, RBS has been distributing office chairs, folding desks, and computer screens to employees’ homes.

“Our priority during the coronavirus pandemic has been to look after the safety and wellbeing of our customers and colleagues,” the spokesperson said.