Return to offices 'is going to be ok' says minister as government pushes back to work message

Credit: PA

Returning to the office "is usually going to be ok" a government minister has stressed, as Number 10 urges staff to get back into workplaces.

Workers will be encouraged to return to the office as part of a major media campaign to be launched by the government next week.

It comes as the government changes its position to say employees should now be returning to workplaces.

Asked about the shift, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Yes, by and large where it is possible people can now return to work, it is safe to do so."

Working from home has become the new normal during the pandemic. Credit: PA

The minister told BBC Breakfast: "Your employer should have put in Covid-friendly [...] 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."

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

Mr Shapps told Sky News there is a limit "in human terms" to remote working.

Quizzed on how the transport network would cope, while adhering to social distancing measures, as workers return to the office, Mr Shapps said: "It's not without its challenges".

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he will meet haulage chiefs Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

He told BBC Breakfast: "We’re ramping it up so that the transport system will be back and, in particular, putting on additional coaches bespoke for the school children returning in many cases."

The television and newspaper messages that will start to appear next week will promote the government’s aim to reduce the number of employees working from home.

It comes amid fears that town and city centres are becoming ghost areas as workers stay away.

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."

Passenger wears a face mask at a Tube station

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said a hybrid approach with home and office working is the best way forward.

Speaking to Times Radio on Thursday, Dame Carolyn said: "This is not about compulsion. I couldn’t say that more strongly.

"This is about creating the opportunity and the confidence to get to a hybrid that gets the best of both worlds. We’re certainly not there yet."