The bosses of some of London’s top businesses have urged Boris Johnson to accelerate a review that will determine when people can return to the office.
The government is set to carry out a review of Covid safety measures such as one-metre social distancing and mask-wearing that will pave the way for a return to work.
In a letter to the prime minister, seen by City A.M., 20 senior business figures called on the government to carry out the review “as quickly as possible”, adding that a safe return to offices was “critical” to the capital’s economic recovery after the pandemic.
“As you know, many firms invested heavily in making their offices Covid secure during 2020 and are keen to make that space available to their staff as soon as practicable, particularly for those who have found homeworking detrimental to their mental health,” they wrote.
“So that they can plan ahead with a clear roadmap in mind, we would urge you to launch as quickly as possible your planned review into social distancing.”
The letter was signed by Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye, as well as the bosses of property companies including Wework, Grosvenor and New West End Company.
Ministers have not given a date for the review, though the rules are not expected to be changed before the fourth and final stage of the lockdown easing plan on 21 June.
Shops and outdoor hospitality will be allowed to resume from 12 April, while outdoor dining, cinemas and theatres will reopen from 17 May.
The letter, organised by lobby group London First, called for a “transparent” process in the review, adding that firms should be able to contribute to the discussions.
The business chiefs said clarity over office reopening plans was needed to ensure companies could plan ahead.
“Getting people back into their offices in a safe and managed way is an important part of bringing the capital and the country back to growth, and we urge you to start that process as soon as possible,” they wrote.
A government spokesperson said: “People must continue only to travel to work if it is not reasonable for them to work from home. It has helped to reduce transmission and will help us to reopen schools and businesses.
“We recognise that social distancing is difficult for many businesses, which is why the guidance on working from home will be reviewed ahead of Step 4 of our roadmap.
“We will give businesses the certainty they need to prepare for any changes ahead of them coming into force and thank them for all their efforts throughout the pandemic to keep staff safe.”