‘Don’t bank on getting your London weighting if you’re miles away from the office’

Commuters at Paddington Station   (Evening Standard)
Commuters at Paddington Station (Evening Standard)

Senior MPs and Mayor Sadiq Khan on Monday urged tens of thousands more workers to get back in the office to boost productivity, improve their well-being and get London firing on all cylinders.

London minister Paul Scully led calls for a switch away from working from home, warning a failure to do so may risk the capital losing jobs. Civil servants were also urged to return to Whitehall, with occupancy rates in some departments still just over 50 per cent.

Mr Scully, MP for Sutton and Cheam, said: “Getting back into the workplace has so many benefits for employees and their businesses alike.

“Whether it’s younger workers learning from their experienced elders or older hands picking up innovation and new thinking, people need human connection to keep on top of their professional development.”

He stressed people who worked in the City but now do their job from other parts of Britain, or even abroad, should not bank on continuing to get paid London weighting. “Don’t be surprised if bosses start to review London weighting instead of paying it to people situated at home in other parts of the country,” he explained. “Extending that logic, it risks jobs being moved offshore if attendance in the office is not required. So a short-term gain may risk jobs in London.”

Central London has recovered from being a “ghost town” in the pandemic but has yet to return to its thriving self. “If we are going to protect London as an amazing place to live, we need to support all the businesses that rely on office workers... our restaurants, bars and shops,” Mr Scully emphasised.

Mr Khan said: “This is the greatest place in the world in which to work and play. You can’t get the best out of it from your desk at home. Despite some advantages of home working, spending time in the workplace and engaging face to face with colleagues is essential for personal development and teamwork.”

Nickie Aiken, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, recently raised getting more people back into the workplace with Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. She said: “The banks have woken up to it and are now insisting their staff are back. It’s important the public sector embraces it too.”

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, said: “I would encourage people who haven’t gone back to give it a try.”

Latest figures showed HM Revenue and Customs in Parliament Street was 50 per cent full in the week of September 11, the Foreign Office 51 per cent, Ministry of Justice 56 per cent, Home Office, Department of Health and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport all 57 per cent, with the highest occupancy rate in the Department for Work and Pensions at 81 per cent.