The “chances of the next generation will suffer” if British workers do not return to the office, Sir James Dyson has warned.
The billionaire inventor has called on the Government to take the “less popular decision” and lead workers away from their homes and back into offices in order to restore the “competitiveness” of the nation’s firms.
Sir James has moved his residency back to the UK from Singapore, according to filings for his companies, which include his family office.
However, the firm will shortly move into its new global head office at St James Power Station in Singapore, after a controversial decision in 2019 to move the operation there from the UK.
Brexit has given the UK back its independence and boosted innovation, he said.
“We’ve got our freedom, we can make trade agreements with other countries outside Europe [and] we can employ people from all around the world,” Sir James told the BBC in April.
He also defended moving Dyson’s global headquarters to Singapore in 2019.
At the time, the pro-Brexit entrepreneur was accused of “hypocrisy”, after claiming the UK would gain more from leaving the EU than it would lose.
“We’re a British company – I’ve put a lot into this country,” he said.
“I can’t make things here and bring over all the components from the Far East here, assemble them here and then send them back to the Far East. That just doesn’t work.”
England’s order to work from home where possible was lifted on July 19, and the Government has said it expects and recommends a gradual return to workplaces over the summer.
However, Labour has previously called for flexible working to become the “new normal”, saying “the right to flexible working will change our economy and the world of work for the better”.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Sir James said allowing flexible working on a long-term basis risks creating a “two-tier workforce”.
He wrote: “Glib statements from ministers about home-working being ‘here to stay’ show a lack of understanding of the detrimental impact that it is having. Where is their output-based evidence?
“We risk creating a two-tier workforce with those at home becoming less and less effective, leaving those diligently attending the workplace to drive the business forward.”
Sir James pointed to his own business as an example of how some firms are not suited for flexible working.
He highlighted his company’s development of a new ventilator during the initial outbreak of the pandemic, with a team of 400 coming together to build a new medical device from scratch.
“Projects like this could never work with people cocooned at home,” Sir James said.
He urged the Government to restore the right for companies to determine how best to organise their teams, adding: “The Government must now harness any ‘vaccine dividend’ and support Britain’s firms as they seek to recover their global competitiveness.
“Returning to the workplace is the essential starting point.”