Goldman Sachs asks UK staff to keep wearing masks in office from Monday

·Business Reporter, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
The bank will not insist on COVID jabs in order for staff to work from office, and will not force them to return if they felt uncomfortable doing so. Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA/LightRocket via Getty Images
The bank will not insist on COVID jabs in order for staff to work from office, and will not force them to return if they felt uncomfortable doing so. Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA/LightRocket via Getty Images

Employees returning to Goldman Sachs’ London head office on Monday will still be required to wear masks in the building despite government restrictions easing.

Richard Gnodde, boss of Goldman Sachs International said that the company was focused on “securing a safe workplace”, although there would be no requirement for staff to be vaccinated to return to work.

“The centre of gravity for our workforce is going to be in our buildings and it will be in this building,” Gnodde told the BBC, referring to the firm’s £1bn ($1.4bn) office in the capital.

He added that the bank would not insist on COVID jabs in order to work from the physical office, and that it would not force staff to return if they felt uncomfortable doing so.

“[We will] continue to manage our exit from this in a cautious and appropriate way to make sure that our people feel comfortable,” he said.

Goldman is hoping for 70% of its UK staff to return to the office in the coming weeks.

The move has been echoed by JP Morgan, who said their face mask policy will also go "unchanged".

"Employees in the UK are required to wear them at all times in communal areas and while walking around our buildings. We are also maintaining enhanced cleaning and social distancing in general," a spokesperson said.

"Our buildings are still limited to 50% capacity, but that cap will be gradually lifted over the summer in a controlled way."

Read more: Goldman Sachs staff ordered to show vaccine report before returning to office

Earlier this year Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon rejected remote working as a “new normal,” labelling it as an “aberration”.

He said the company had operated throughout 2020 with “less than 10% of our people” in the office, but that remote working does not suit the work culture at Goldman Sachs.

“I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us. And it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible,” he said at a conference.

In contrast, a number of large business and corporate institutions have confirmed that they will adopt hybrid, flexible working in future.

Watch: What will returning to work look like after the pandemic?

A spokesperson for Lloyds (LLOY.L) told Yahoo Finance on Friday: “From 19 July, corporation offices in the UK will continue to be open for those who need to be in, with revised protocols in line with the easing of restrictions.

“However, we’re not expecting people to return in any significant numbers before 13 September, when almost everyone will have been double vaccinated.”

They added: “From this date onwards, we will fully embrace flexible working, where the office is where we’ll collectively be at our best to oversee and sponsor the market, innovate together and collaborate on our exciting change agendas. Our people will be in the office based on the needs of the business and our stakeholders. For many employees, this will be an average of three days per week.”

Rival bank HSBC (HSBA.L) said that is was recommending colleagues wear face masks in confined spaces, such as lifts, and consider wearing a mask when walking around the office.

"Our responsibility for health and safety as an employer is always paramount and so, in addition to government guidance, we continue to closely watch conditions throughout the UK and to take advice from our medical advisers," a spokesperson said.

READ MORE: Barclays CEO: Packed Canary Wharf offices 'may be a thing of the past'

It follows plans this year to radically slash its office footprint in the coming years and to an "agile" way of working post-COVID.

Europe's biggest bank said in a strategy update it hoped to reduce its office space globally by 40% "over the long term". It is reorganising offices to support the transition to a new hybrid way of working, with more flexible, collaboration space for teams, bookable desks, and new technology to support staff.

“They’ll be much more of a hybrid model of people working in the offices, but in a different way, but also working from home when they want to,” chief executive Noel Quinn said previously.

Elsewhere, Barclays (BARC.L) chief executive Jes Staley said last year that packed city centre offices could be a "thing of the past”, while Twitter (TWTR) has told staff they can work from home indefinitely.

Watch: Wall Street wants employees back in the office