UK finance firms implement ‘challenging’ new COVID-19 rules

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance firms have begun issuing a set of updated work-from-home guidelines for employees after the government tightened rules.

Auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers said on Thursday that following the government’s strictest coronavirus guidelines for working from home will be a “challenge” for accountants as they head into their busiest time of the year.

Britain announced stricter restrictions on Wednesday, ordering people to work from home to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus. Read more

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Employees in Britain’s huge financial services sector have begun to return to the office in droves in recent months, as financial districts in the City of London and Canary Wharf have been busy in the run-up to Christmas.

“As usual we will follow government guidelines, but there is no denying that this will be challenging for some sectors,” said Kevin Ellis, PwC Chairman and Senior Partner.

“The majority of our employees are back in the office two to three days a week,” Ellis said. “It is a busy audit season and there is also a lot of deal activity that benefits from some in-person meetings.”

He said PwC’s offices would remain open to people who had a “business or personal need to use them”.

PwC, along with EY, Deloitte and KPMG are called the “Big Four” and dominate auditing of blue-chip companies globally, with its busiest year-end period as accountants make checks of the company’s annual reports before publication.

EY and Deloitte said they have asked employees to comply with government guidance, although their offices remain open to employees who need them.

“We are asking anyone who comes into our offices to wear a face mask and to undergo a lateral flow test within 48 hours of coming in,” a Deloitte spokesperson said.

The City of London Corporation said the new restrictions would be disappointing for businesses in the historic “square” financial district it governs.

“We will urge city businesses, workers and residents to follow the new rules,” said Catherine McGuinness, head of city policy.

“But we are also asking the government to put in place a clear roadmap for normalcy early in the new year, and to base all decisions on data. We need to find ways to live with the virus that allows the economy to thrive,” she said.

A bank source said banks had also started issuing revised guidance to employees including Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE), which has told nearly 8,000 British employees that it discourages social gatherings at work at a time usually crowded for Christmas parties. .

Staff numbers at Deutsche Bank London offices will be significantly reduced from Monday, although employees with certain roles such as traders or those with personal reasons can still work.

The shift also comes a day after US investment bank Jefferies Financial Group (JEF.N) required employees to work from home again and canceled all client parties after a string of COVID-19 cases. Read more

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(Howe Jones and Ian Withers report); Editing by David Evans

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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