© Reuters. PHOTOGRAPHY: Workers cross London Bridge during the rush hour in London, UK, September 8, 2021. REUTERS / Toby Melville
Authors Huw Jones and Iain Withers
LONDON (Reuters) – British financial companies have started issuing a series of updated work instructions to staff after the government tightened the rules.
But following stricter government guidelines for COVID-19 to work from home will be a “challenge” for accountants as they go into their busiest times of the year, a PwC auditor said Thursday.
Britain announced stricter restrictions on Wednesday, ordering people to work from home to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Employees in the UK’s large financial services sector have begun returning in large numbers to the office in recent months, with the financial districts of London and Canary Wharf busy on Christmas Eve.
“As always, we will follow government guidelines, but there is no denying that this will be a challenge for some sectors,” said Kevin Ellis, president and senior partner of PwC.
“Most of our people come back to the office two to three days a week. The season is busy for auditing, and there is a lot of work activity that benefits from some personal meetings,” Ellis said.
PwC offices will remain open to people who have a “business or personal need to use them,” he said.
PwC, along with EY, Deloitte and KPMG, are called the “Big Four” and dominate the audit of blue-chip companies globally, and the year-end period is the busiest as accountants check the company’s annual reports before publication.
EY and Deloitte said they have asked staff to adhere to government guidelines, although their offices are still open to employees who need them.
“We ask everyone who comes to our offices to wear a face mask and do a lateral flow test within 48 hours of arrival,” a Deloitte spokesman said.
The City of London Corporation said the new restrictions would be a disappointment for businesses in the historic “square mile” financial district it manages.
“We will urge city businesses, workers and residents to follow the new rules,” said Catherine McGuinness, president of City Policy.
“But we are also asking the government to set a clear roadmap to normalcy at the beginning of the new year and to base all decisions on data. We need to find ways to live with a virus that allows the economy to prosper,” she said.
Banks have also started issuing revised guidelines to staff, including German bank (DE :), who told his nearly 8,000 employees in Britain that he discourages working get-togethers in what would normally be working hours for Christmas parties, said a source at the bank.
The number of staff at Deutsche Bank’s London offices will be significantly reduced from Monday, although employees with certain roles such as merchants or those with personal reasons may still enter.
The dismissal also comes a day after U.S. investment bank Jefferies (NYSE 🙂 Financial Group told staff it was working from home again and canceled all parties with clients after a series of COVID-19 cases.
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