Only two months after the UK Government appeared to be encouraging workers to return to the office, September 22 saw the Prime Minister respond to the rise in Covid-19 cases by once again encouraging home working.

Boris Johnson said:

“We are once again asking office workers to work from home where possible.”

In response, the Financial Conduct Authority has issued this statement to the firms it authorises:

“Firms should continue to follow Government advice on working from home until notified otherwise. The financial services industry has continued to operate during the coronavirus pandemic with homeworking and some workers operating in locations such as branches and call centres.”

A separate FCA statement from September 24 stresses the importance the regulator places on the responsibilities of senior management in these unprecedented times. It highlights that there are a number of different sets of ‘local lockdown’ restrictions in place in different areas of the UK, and that senior managers need to be aware of the different rules that apply in all of the locations where their firm has business activities.

The FCA statement on senior management responsibilities reads:

“All firms should be clear that coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to pose a significant risk to public health. As the regulator of the UK financial services industry, we wish to remind firms that the Government is again asking workers who can work from home to do so.

“Firms should continue to discuss working arrangements with staff and support their employees in facilitating appropriate working arrangements as the coronavirus pandemic continues and the situation evolves. This includes when working from home or within a workplace.

“We expect Senior Managers to take account of changes in the applicability of local or national lockdown restrictions and to review and update the working arrangements they have in place with their employees on a continuing basis. Ultimately, Senior Managers should be aware of and act on lockdown restrictions as set out by national authorities, and relevant local authorities where their staff are based.

“Firms should continue to follow the Government’s advice closely and take the recommended steps.”

Firms may have their own views as to the effectiveness of home working, but it is likely that they had systems in place to facilitate home working earlier in the pandemic, and that these plans can be swiftly re-activated.

The rise in cases has also hindered efforts to fully re-open business sectors such as sport, entertainment and hospitality, but the Government has resisted calls to extend the furlough scheme, and this will end as scheduled on October 31. More than 4,000 financial services firms have also made use of the scheme.

The new employment support measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak centre around supporting the wages of employees where firms are able to offer them part-time work equivalent to at least one-third of their normal hours. If a firm decides to make use of the support scheme, a combination of Government support and employer contributions will then top up the employee’s salary – the Government and the firm will each pay a sum equivalent to the salary for one-third of the person’s unworked hours. There will no longer be any Government support where a firm decides it is unable to offer an employee any work whatsoever.

The Self Employed Income Support Scheme – which allows self-employed people who have been affected financially by the pandemic to make a claim for a Government grant every three months – has been extended until April 2021.

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware of the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article