Ambitious women and younger staff suffer from working at home
7th March 2021

Ambitious women and younger staff suffer from working at home, business leaders warn

  • Paul Scully, Minister for London, warned of ‘wfh’ damage to younger staff 
  • Mr Scully said Government wants to ‘build on flexible working’ and learn lessons 
  • Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest, warned of ‘regressive’ effect on women

Working from home should not become ‘living at work’, a business Minister has warned – as the head of one of Britain’s biggest banks said it would never go back to pre-Covid office working.

Paul Scully, who is also Minister for London, warned of the damage to cities and to younger staff’s development posed by ‘wfh’.

He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We have to make sure that we don’t hollow out the cultural offerings that we all really enjoy, living in or near a major city.’ He said the office also brought ‘collaboration and great networking opportunities and mentoring opportunities’.

He added: ‘There are some significant benefits of flexible working but that’s not the same as permanently working from home, because that’s basically just living at work.’

Paul Scully MP pictured on the tube. He warned of the damage to cities and to younger staff’s development posed by ‘wfh’

Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest Group, said the bank would move to a permanent ‘hybrid’ model combining home working and office work – even after lockdown ends fully.

Ms Rose also warned the pandemic is having a ‘regressive’ effect on women who want to start their own business – as they take on the bigger share of home schooling and housework.

A new study for the government by Ms Rose argues that women are an untapped resource which could help fuel the post-Covid recovery, if ‘barriers’ to them starting businesses are removed.

The report, which is due to be published tomorrow, also revealed that 77 per cent of female business owners found managing their business in the pandemic stressful, compared to 55 per cent of male entrepreneurs.

Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest Group, said the bank would move to a permanent ‘hybrid’ model

More than half of the women surveyed said they would not recommend starting a business in their sector in 2021.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Ms Rose said: ‘If women find themselves at even more of a professional disadvantage on the other side of this crisis, then we will have failed and be attempting to build an economic recovery that will be ignoring the huge potential represented by female entrepreneurs.’

Turning to working from home, which Ms Rose has been predominantly doing personally for a year, she said: ‘There are positives and negatives to working from home. I have some colleagues for whom working from home has been an absolutely fantastic experience, and it’s given them flexibility and more time with their family.

‘For others, it has been a hugely isolating and difficult experience where their wellbeing and mental health has really struggled.’

She said after the pandemic the bank would move to a ‘hybrid type of work going forward’.

Mr Scully said the Government wants to ‘build on flexible working’ and learn lessons from the past year.

However, he warned: ‘I’ve been on a number of calls when I’ve seen people propping up a laptop on the end of their bed, or have six housemates all competing for wi-fi or your children running in – it’s really difficult to juggle.’

… but peers ‘ask to be paid to vote from home’ 

Peers do not want virtual proceedings in the House of Lords to end after the pandemic, allowing them to claim a daily allowance while ‘attending’ from home.

Multiple senior sources said a group of peers have asked for the virtual voting and speaking in the Chamber to be made a permanent option, so they could participate from home and do not have to ‘stand around’ for votes.

The House of Commons last week published its roadmap out of lockdown, although it has yet to set out when proceedings in the Chamber will return to normal.

MPs have been calling for more in-person proceedings to resume as soon as possible. During the pandemic peers have been allowed to claim a daily allowance of £162 on days they vote or speak virtually. This is reduced from the usual £323 payment for attending in person.

A peer said: ‘Because of their age, some peers do not want to stand around late, waiting to be called for votes.’

A source close to the discussions said ‘there will be two types of people’ in the Lords after the pandemic – ‘those who want to come in to claim as much money as they can, and those who want to stay home’. The Lords said any permanent changes to proceedings after Covid would have to be agreed by the Procedure Committee.

It comes as three sitting Tory peers have been claiming taxpayer money on the furlough scheme, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Lord Borwick and ex-Ministers Lord Astor and Lord Inglewood have all benefited from the scheme, official records show.

Last year, Lib Dem frontbencher Lord Fox apologised and pledged to repay the taxpayer money he had received, after it was revealed he had furloughed himself while claiming his attendance allowance.

 

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