Work from home guidance ‘to remain’ even as lockdown eases next month

17 February 2021, 11:32

During the current lockdown in England people have been told to work from home unless they "absolutely" cannot do so.
During the current lockdown in England people have been told to work from home unless they "absolutely" cannot do so. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Work from home guidance is set to remain in place for the foreseeable future, even as Boris Johnson eases restrictions, reports suggest.

The Prime Minister is set to outline his roadmap for exiting lockdown on Monday, however office staff will reportedly not be given a date for when workers can return.

Under current lockdown rules in England people have been told to work from home unless they “absolutely” cannot do so.

Government sources told the Daily Mail there is a “way to go before that changes”, adding: “We wouldn't bring in a new message at this stage because it will confuse people. The road map is to set out where we're going.”

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The government has faced some criticism for telling people to go back to work on-mass after the first lockdown, with briefings in late August warning workers they would be easier to fire if they worked from home.

This time Boris Johnson has made clear he will take a cautious approach, telling the nation on Monday to be “optimistic but also patient” about the return to normal.

The PM admitted he could not guarantee there would be no further lockdowns although he stressed that "science is now unquestionably in the ascendancy over the disease".

Mr Johnson said: "I can't give that guarantee, of course not, because we are battling with nature, with a disease that is capable of mutating and changing.

"I'm increasingly confident, I'm increasingly optimistic about the sheer extent of the possibilities that are opening up with vaccinations.

"I will be setting out as much of a timetable as we can give on the 22nd and I'm very hopeful that we will be able to go ahead and open things up."

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However, the PM could face pushback from those on his backbenches, who are concerned about the economic impact of the ongoing restrictions.

Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the Mail: “We need to get people back to work as soon as possible.

“There are lots of reasons why work is important to our lives. It affects people's physical and mental wellbeing and there are issues around productivity.

“I would like to see as much detail as possible in the road map to help people to make plans. They need to know in advance.”

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Lockdown-sceptic Tories have piled pressure on Boris Johnson, calling on him to commit to a timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions with a complete end to controls by the end of April.

On Sunday, Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, said ministers need to “counter” the arguments from some scientists on SAGE for restrictions to continue into the long term.

Mr Harper told LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday: "Remember, all these rules were put in place to save lives and protect the NHS and actually the life saving and the NHS protecting is going to be done by the vaccine, not by these restrictions.”

"The problem at the moment is you keep hearing people from SAGE, for example, coming out and suggesting we are still going to have restrictions all the way through the summer and perhaps have them again in the winter. And we are not hearing ministers counter that.”

However, he added: “I would love to be able to stand up in the House of Commons and welcome the roadmap [the prime minister] sets out.”