Covid: Chancellor Rishi Sunak urges workers to return to the office when restrictions lift

The order to work from home is expected to be scrapped on July 19 in England.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has urged workers to return to the office when coronavirus restrictions lift.

The order to work from home is expected to be scrapped on July 19 in England and Mr Sunak said he looked forward to the shift back to offices.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak has urged workers to return to the office when coronavirus restrictions lift (Getty Images)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has urged workers to return to the office when coronavirus restrictions lift (Getty Images)

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At a glance: 5 key points

- Mr Sunak told the Daily Telegraph: “I think for young people, especially, that ability to be in your office, be in your workplace and learn from others more directly, is something that’s really important and I look forward to us slowly getting back to that.”

- There have been widespread concerns about the economic impact of people staying at home, with town centre businesses such as cafes suffering from the lack of trade as workers have been kept away from their offices.

- Mr Sunak said it was not for ministers to tell firms what they should or should not do, adding: “Ultimately I trust people and businesses to make decisions for themselves.”

- However, The Trades Union Congress has written to ministers to raise concerns about the lack of consultation on plans which will affect millions of workers.

- At Step 4 of England’s road map, the guidance to work from home where possible will end, to allow employers to start planning a safe return to workplaces.

What’s been said

Mr Sunak said that apprentices at a car mechanic training centre he met in Wolverhampton were “super-excited to be back in their workplace”.

“They were over the moon, because they’ve spent six months trying to learn on Zoom and Teams and everything else, and it hasn’t been great.

“They were saying actually being in, and most importantly, getting the support from their mentors, has been really valuable to them.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all want working life to get back to business as usual.

“But as restrictions are lifted and increasing numbers return to their workplaces, it is crucial that we get workplace safety right, and give workers and members of the public confidence.”

Background

The prospect of rising cases fuelling a surge in the numbers self-isolating is causing concern in Whitehall.

The NHS Covid-19 app could be tweaked to make it less sensitive to prevent people being “pinged” unnecessarily.

The number of exposure alerts sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England soared by more than 60% in a week, according to the latest contact tracing figures.

The head of the UK Health Security Agency, Dr Jenny Harries, told the Commons Public Accounts Committee on Thursday that work was being done to “tune” the app to work within an increasingly vaccinated population to ensure it was there “for a purpose, not for annoyance”.

Mr Sunak acknowledged public “frustration” and said Health Secretary Sajid Javid was looking at an “appropriate, balanced and proportionate” approach for the app.

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