The primary aim of Rishi Sunak’s mini-budget this week was to try and avert the danger of mass unemployment as a result of the recession. One of the measures, which included a VAT cut and stamp duty relief, will see employers receive £1,000 for every worker they bring back from furlough as part of a £9.4 billion jobs retention bonus scheme.
Some 9.2 million jobs were covered by the furlough scheme, with 1.1 million businesses claiming a total of £22.9 billion up to 21 June. Now, with the scheme closed to new applications and employers required to start making compulsory contributions from August, more businesses are making tentative steps to reopen their doors.
While some office-based companies took their cue from the reopening of bars and restaurants on 4 July, September has been slated as the month staff will return to the workplace en masse, particularly in major cities like London.
Police have been measuring footfall to the City regularly with it staying “fairly static” at 5,000 to 5,500 people a day - a stark contrast to the usual 513,000 workers we usually see. With all UK schools and colleges to reopen in full in September, commuter footfall is expected to start rising to the pre-COVID levels that we’re used to.
Of course, each organisation will do things differently. Royal Bank of Scotland announced that three-quarters of its 65,000 staff will continue working from home until at least the end of September, while Lloyd’s of London announced plans to reopen its City headquarters and underwriting room on 1 September.
Editor-in-chief of PRWeek UK, Danny Rogers spoke to a range of PR agency bosses and found plans for September reopenings a common theme. One unnamed City boss stated: “Now I need to get my staff back. We officially open our offices this week, and I want to get everyone back by early September.” Another said: “It is controversial, but I’m expecting everyone back by September. Of course, we’ll allow more flexible hours and some days working from home, but it’s important to get that energy back for our teams.”
A complete return to normality is a long way off and perhaps isn’t even possible, but September looks set to be the month when the UK starts seeing the first shoots of recovery after what’s been a challenging 2020 so far.