Lloyds Banking Group has come under pressure from unions over trialling changes to its hybrid working policy, accusing the bank of discriminating against working parents, women and carers.
The banking giant’s chairman, Robin Budenberg, also faced disruption from climate protesters at the group’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Glasgow.
Mr Budenberg said the policy changes – which reportedly will ensure staff go into the office for two days a week – were part of a pilot scheme and not set in stone.
It followed criticism from representatives of Unite the union, which represents staff members across the group’s 63,000-strong workforce.
She said the pilot scheme was disproportionately impacting women, carers and disabled workers at the bank, because it takes away their ability to work flexibly around caring duties.
The policy, introduced last month, involves 4,000 workers across the business, according to Unite.
A separate union member read out a testament from an unnamed married couple who both work at the bank, which said the policy will not allow them to look after their child who has additional needs.
Mr Budenberg responded to the criticism: “At this stage we are conducting two pilots and have asked colleagues to share their views. I would stress that no decisions have been taken.
“Any outcomes will be based on individual discussions between colleagues and their line managers.”
He said he was proud of the bank for being leaders in the field with its flexible working policy, adding: “We want to do something that is fair for everyone.”
Protesters from Unite gathered outside the AGM, demanding Lloyds drops its compressed hours pilot.
Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, said in a statement of support: “Unite members are saying clearly that Lloyds Banking Group must drop this ill-conceived pilot which grievously disadvantages women, carers and disabled staff working at the bank.
“At a time when progressive employers are moving towards modern ways of working, it is appears that Lloyds’ management are well out of touch.”
Meanwhile, the meeting got off to a slow start after protesters from Extinction Rebellion interrupted Mr Budenburg before he could begin his opening speech.
He got as far as saying “hello and welcome” before four protesters stood up and interrupted with speeches over the bank’s contribution to financing fossil fuel projects.
The livestream of the AGM was paused for around 10 minutes before the chairman could continue.
Extinction Rebellion said Lloyds increased fossil fuel funding by 500 million US dollars (£402 million) in 2022 compared with 2021.
The campaign group asked Lloyds renounce the funding of fossil fuels altogether, and accused it of greenwashing.
It follows other British banking giants including Barclays and HSBC facing more significant disruption from climate protesters at their AGMs this month.
Lloyds is set to return long-term incentives to directors which could see executive directors receive a bonus in the form of shares of up to 300% of their salary from 2024.
The renewed remuneration policy was put to shareholders in a vote following the meeting.
Unofficial results showed that the long-term incentive plan and the group’s annual report were approved by shareholders.