UK financial sector urges caution over any ‘work from home’ legislation

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How people divide their working hours between home and office should develop naturally over time and not be forced into law, senior financial services industry officials said on Monday.

Britain has indicated it may legislate to allow people to work flexibly by dividing their time between the office and home, building on the experience of millions who have worked from home since COVID-19 forced lockdowns in March last year.

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Many firms have already said they plan a mix of home and office working once pandemic restrictions are lifted.

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“This is going to evolve, clearly, and that’s why legislation would be inappropriate,” Bruce Carnegie-Brown, chairman of the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, told City & Financial’s City Week event.

“We have to allow different sectors of the economy to adapt in different ways to address this opportunity, frankly, for a
more mixed economy of remote and physical work.”

Pedestrians walk over the Millennium Bridge in the City of London on April 29, 2021. (AFP)
Pedestrians walk over the Millennium Bridge in the City of London on April 29, 2021. (AFP)

Anne Richards, chief executive of asset manager Fidelity International, said employers were being forced to think hard
about what they are asking people to come into the office to do and what can be done from home.

“Ultimately it will become something of a competitive advantage if you can get the balance right on some of these things, give people a bit more flexibility to act as grown-ups,” Richards said.

“I don’t think a legislative approach probably is the right answer, I think this will find its own natural equilibrium,” she added.

Karan Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry, an employers’ body, said employers should make their
own decisions on the mix of working from home or office.

“It would be the wrong thing to force this to happen, it should evolve in its own way,” Bilimoria said.

Carnegie-Brown said the return to the office should be treated carefully so those working from home did not feel excluded.

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