Friday 9 July 2021 11:51 am

No masks, no distancing: Govt set to revise UK workplace guidance

Ministers are preparing to publish new return to office guidance for businesses next week that will greatly reduce the number of measures recommended to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Among the workplace recommendations set to move from obligatory to subject to a company’s discretion are face masks and social distancing, the Financial Times first reported.

The changes come as England edges closer to the end of most coronavirus restrictions on 19 July, including the government’s “work from home if you can” guidance.

City firms have various different strategies for returning to the office, after ministers indicated the decision would be up to individuals and businesses.

The planned redaction of the government workplace guidance echoes this shift in responsibility away from the state onto businesses, and will allow employers to decide whether they will keep measures like face masks and distancing to control the spread of Covid-19.

But the new guidance will still require companies to carry out health and safety risk assessments and consider ventilation and hygiene, according to government officials.

It comes as chancellor Rishi Sunak this morning urged Brits – especially younger workers – to return to the office as pandemic restrictions ease.

“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,” Sunak said.

Government workplace guidance issued to businesses last year included 14 pages of minute detail, including recommendations that workers did not swap pens.

But this will be reduced to a one page document, finalised after 12 July when the PM is expected to confirm the lifting of restrictions.

City minister John Glen also said financial services firms should use the experience of remote working during the pandemic to decide how they would adopt flexible working, but the government will not introduce an obligatory model.

“I don’t believe it’s right for government to prescribe a single model of how to do this,” he told a City & Financial conference on women in finance.