BT to create 7,000 UK jobs in broadband rollout to 25m homes

BT is to create up to 7,000 jobs as it ups the pace of the multibillion-pound rollout of a national next-generation, broadband network to 25m UK premises by 2026.

The telecoms company, which reported a 23% drop in pre-tax profits to £1.8bn last year as businesses used less of its services during pandemic lockdowns, had previously targeted rolling out full-fibre broadband to 20m premises. It said it would consider a joint-venture partnership to fund the rollout to the extra 5m homes, which will cost about £3bn.

BT has already pledged £12bn to tackle the UK’s status as a global laggard in full-fibre broadband, and fulfil Boris Johnson’s election promise of getting next-generation broadband speeds to all homes in the UK.

“BT is already building more full-fibre broadband to homes and businesses than anyone else in the UK,” said Philip Jansen, the chief executive of BT. “It will get fibre to more people, including in rural communities. And it will help fuel UK economic recovery, with better connectivity and up to 7,000 new jobs.”

The jobs, which will mostly be engineering roles at its Openreach subsidiary that builds and runs the UK’s broadband network, comes as BT presses on with a restructuring of its business to reduce staff numbers ultimately by 13,000.

Jansen said the company is to cut 16% of its office space as a result of changes in working practices post-pandemic. Pre-pandemic the company had begun a downsizing to close 270 of 300 sites across the UK, to be completed by 2023. It will still keep the 30 remaining sites, but reduce the space required at each.

“We expect things to change quite dramatically to more hybrid, smart working,” he said. “We haven’t got a specific formula for the whole company because how it works depends on a whole host of things. But the key word is flexibility.”

BT is not able to institute a blanket flexible working policy, as many firms have, as its 100,000 staff work across such a variety of roles. About 35,000 work At Openreach, most as engineers who work in the field, while overall the company has about 50,000 staff who are regularly office-based or in its retail store network.

The company also disclosed that its triennial pension valuation has assessed the company’s pension deficit at just under £8bn, as at June last year, about £1.5bn less than its last valuation. BT has agreed a long-term payment plan with its pension trustees.

“This agreement keeps us on track for zero funding deficit by 2030,” said Simon Lowth, BT’s finance chief.

BT also confirmed that it is to reinstate its dividend, which was halted for two years at the start of the pandemic, at 7.7p for its 2021-22 financial year.

The company has also called a temporary truce with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which had been threatening to ballot for strike action over the impact of the restructuring plans.

“BT has agreed to suspend any actions that could result in potential team member redundancies while these important topics are worked through,” the company said.


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