Boris Johnson ‘to urge workers to get back to the office’ in Tory conference speech

Ministers said to be confident they will not have to reinstate work-from-home orders

Daniel Keane
Tuesday 05 October 2021 00:59
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<p>Boris Johnson will urge workers to go back to the office in his Tory conference speech on Wednesday </p>

Boris Johnson will urge workers to go back to the office in his Tory conference speech on Wednesday

Boris Johnson will urge workers to go back to the office in his Tory conference speech on Wednesday, according to a report.

The prime minister is said to be confident that there will not be another wave of Covid infections large enough to force him to reinstate the work-from-home order this winter.

A government source told the Daily Mail that Mr Johnson “believes very strongly in the value of face-to-face working”, particularly for younger employees.

Ministers were forced to reinstate the work-from-home order last Autumn amid a rise in Covid cases - just weeks after ordering employees back to their desks.

This year, the government has stopped short of publicly encouraging workers back to the office, instead allowing employers to promote a “gradual return”. Official “work from home” Whitehall guidance was removed on 19 July - though many employees in the public and private sector are continuing to work remotely.

However, remote working could be reintroduced as part of the government’s “Plan B” this winter should cases spike, along with the return of mask mandates.

Ministers are reportedly confident that these measures will not need to be brought back should hospitalisations remain stable. A separate Tory source told the Daily Mail that officials were “not at the point” of thinking about Plan B and that mask-wearing or vaccine certification were likely to be promoted ahead of remote working.

However, Covid infection rates remain high and scientific advisers have suggested remote working is key to preventing transmission of the virus.

Professor Andrew Hayward, an epidemiologist at University College London and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, last month said remote working would make “a significant difference to transmission if we get into trouble”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The most important and effective way of reducing spread of the virus is not to be in contact with other people.”

At the Conservative party conference on Monday, Tory MPs claimed it was imperative that workers returned to the office. Speaking at a fringe event, Conservative former minister Jake Berry urged civil servants to go back to their desks.

Asked about Mr Berry’s comments, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman defended the civil service but emphasised the importance of “working in person”.

He said civil servants “have been able to deliver for the public whilst working from home”, but added: “That said, as the prime minister has said repeatedly, there are significant benefits to being in work, to office working, and those should not be discounted.

“That’s why we are encouraging all employers to start steadily bringing in their workforce, as we are at this stage of the epidemic.”

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