The bosses of some of Britain’s top businesses have hit out at the government as ministers delayed the publication of new rules on returning to the office.
Officials at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy failed to set out guidance on best practice for employers and workers yesterday despite previously suggesting they would do so.
It comes amid mounting frustration among industry chiefs, who have warned the lack of clarity could dent confidence and hamper London’s economic recovery.
“There has been real frustration about the mixed messages that they have been receiving from the government, and we are calling for a focus on rebuilding trust and confidence through clear and unambiguous guidance,” Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, told the Daily Telegraph.
Boris Johnson has confirmed plans to push ahead with the final easing of restrictions on 19 July — dubbed freedom day — but struck a cautious tone as he warned the pandemic “is not over”.
The prime minister suggested that businesses adopt a “gradual” return to the office and said it was up to employers to introduce their own policies.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has urged Brits to return to the office, saying younger workers in particular would benefit from going back to workplaces. Further guidance is also expected to be published in the coming days.
But bosses have blasted the continued uncertainty over government policy, with one senior executive saying: “The government doesn’t know what it thinks about masks. How on earth are employees and employers meant to know? We need clarity.”
Sir Martin Sorrell, chairman of ad group S4 Capital, added: “We’re being encouraged to take things into our own hands, and that does make it difficult because people have their own standards.”
Frustration over the return to the office mirrors confusion over rules for the hospitality sector after the prime minister recommended that nightclubs use vaccine passports and that people should still wear face masks in crowded indoor spaces even after the legal requirement ends.
Patrick Dardis, chief executive of pub group Young’s, said: “It is very confusing, particularly around working from home messaging and masks. Boris never seems sure or decisive.”
It comes after mayor Sadiq Khan announced that face masks will still be compulsory on London Tube and bus services even after restrictions ease next week.
A government spokesperson said further guidance on returning to work would be published shortly.