'It is safe to return to offices' Government to launch return to workplace campaign

28 August 2020, 08:31

Grant Shapps has said the government wants people to get back to work
Grant Shapps has said the government wants people to get back to work. Picture: LBC
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Government is encouraging Britain's workers to return to the office with a major media campaign which will launch next week.

The television and newspaper messages will promote the Government's aim to reduce the number of employees working from home amid fears that town and city centres are becoming ghost areas as workers stay away.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told LBC the Government message is that "it is now safe to return to work."

Asked whether the Government's position is that workers should return to their offices, Mr Shapps said: "Yes, by and large where it is possible people can now return to work, it is safe to do so, your employer should have put in Covid-friendly - or Covid-unfriendly I suppose you could say - measures to ensure that people can work safely from their offices because there are just things which are impossible to do from home over Zoom videos as we're doing now.

"So yes, gradually now people will start to return to the office. But I suspect we'll see more flexible working than we've seen in the past and it will be for employers and employees to work out the right balance in their particular cases."

He added: "And so usually it is going to be OK to return, unless somebody's in a particular vulnerable state there is no reason not to return."

Workers are set to be encouraged to return to their offices
Workers are set to be encouraged to return to their offices. Picture: PA

Labour has criticised the plans as being "unconscionable" while the CBI said any return to work push should involve a "hybrid" approach that did not force people to return.

Labour's shadow business minister Lucy Powell said: "It beggars belief that the Government are threatening people like this during a pandemic. Forcing people to choose between their health and their job is unconscionable.

"Number 10 should condemn this briefing and categorically rule out any such campaign."

A Government spokesperson said: "We are working closely with employers across the country to help them make workplaces Covid secure and give people confidence to go back to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Next week we will showcase the benefits of returning safely to work and raise awareness of companies getting this right.

"We'll also provide practical steps businesses are taking to ensure offices are Covid secure as well as alternative ways of travelling to work."