News Details

Should Workers Now Return to the Office?

Now that Boris Johnson has recommended that England’s workers gradually return to working in their usual offices, the lockdown rules that have kept much of the nation working from home are finally being lifted.

But uncertainty still prevails, as workers in Scotland, Wales and Ireland have been advised to continue with their homeworking patterns as far as possible and at least until further notice.

So why does the government want employees in England back in the office? After Covid restrictions were – largely – lifted on 19th July, the government made it clear that it was keen to support businesses that have financially struggled over lockdown, which tend to be located in city centres.

These businesses, such as office space providers, coffee shops, newsagents, restaurants, bars and other central service providers, rely on a steady stream of office workers.

The government is also keen to encourage firms to fully reopen in order to get as many staff off furlough as it can before the scheme formally ends, after the cost of national furlough far exceeded original expectations.

Many workers are now unsure whether they should return to their offices or not in the wake of the changing situation and with ongoing concerns about the Delta variant.

Employees do have the right to ask to continue to work from home, but employers are not obliged to agree.

However, the CIPD, which represents the country’s HR practitioners, believes there will be a far higher degree of flexibility and freedom on the way that people work in the future and where they work.

A spokesman from the HR representative body said that most of the UK’s employees wanted to be able to have a blended approach of home and workplace working, with greater choice in their regular working routines. This would lead to a hybrid model that would offer more balance to workers.

The CIPD was also keen to stress that the removal of Covid restrictions shouldn’t be seen as a sign to return to the workplace en masse and that it should be left to individual businesses to consult with their workforces and to agree the most appropriate and workable arrangements.

And even though restrictions have been lifted in England, firms still retain a legal duty of care to manage the risks faced by those who engage with their business.

The government recommends that all employers are carrying out regular H&S assessments and taking the steps they can to mitigate any identified risks. These may include reducing visitors, maintaining social distancing, offering extra sanitation and cleaning and keeping one-way systems in place.

Others may stagger start and end times and rework desks so that staff sit alongside, rather than opposite, each other.

Most people are still continuing to wear face masks on English public transport, although it is no longer a legal requirement, as it still is around the rest of the UK.

If any worker does feel unsafe, they are asked to contact Citizens Advice, their local authority or the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE has already delivered over 200,000 Covid safety inspections.

Ultimately, it will be dependent on individual companies at this stage to make the decision. But whether there is a huge influx of workers returning to the office remains to be seen.

If you are looking at how to make sure your workforce remains engaged – or looking to boost your teams during the recovery – get in touch with us today to discuss your requirements.