Wednesday 14 July 2021 5:04 pm

Government calls for 'gradual return' to offices over summer after 19 July

The government has today suggested workers go back to the office gradually after 19 July as Covid cases are expected to keep rising.

The government’s advice for employers includes calls for workers to reduce the number of people they have contact with, the use of face masks in some situations and ventilation checks in offices.

Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that almost all Covid-19 restrictions will be eased from 19 July, including the government’s work from home advice.

Ministers have said it will now be up to employers to manage a return to the office, with the government only providing advice and guidance.

The Delta variant of Covid is surging across the country, with cases up by 26 per cent week-on-week, with the government’s advice reflecting this new wave.

The government released its advice today, with documents saying that “during this period of high prevalence, the government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer”.

All employers are being advised to carry out “Covid risk assessments”, with companies with more than five employers being told to write out all details.

Guidance for offices calls for employers to “identify any poorly ventilated spaces and taking steps to improve fresh air flow in these areas”.

“A CO2 monitor could help you assess whether a space is poorly ventilated. If you can’t improve ventilation in poorly ventilated spaces, minimise use of these spaces,” it read.

The new guidance said employers should “encourage the use of face coverings by workers or customers in enclosed and crowded spaces” and “reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ or ‘cohorting’”.

The Prime Minister said in his original announcement of the new rules that the government would take a hands-off approach to people getting back into the office.

However, last week chancellor Rishi Sunak intervened to encourage young people to return to the office.

Sunak said on Friday that working remotely and mostly through Zoom had been “not great” for those at the early stages of their careers.

“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,” he said.

Johnson’s former senior aide Lord Eddie Lister is also calling for civil servants to return to Whitehall en masse.

However, there has been growing support from UK business advocacy groups for a more flexible approach post-pandemic.

The British Chambers of Commerce has called for “businesses to have access to clear guidance, information and best practice resources” to help them “embrace the broadest range of remote, workplace and flexible working options as we emerge from the pandemic”.