Work from home advice could end on 21 June, says prime minister

Lifting of restrictions still dependent on low infection rates, Johnson highlights, as experts call for continued flexibility from employers

Government advice that individuals should work from home wherever possible could be dropped on 21 June, the prime minister has said, providing the current easing of coronavirus restrictions continues to go to plan.

When asked in parliament yesterday (12 May) whether he could confirm that he planned to end the work from home guidance next month, Boris Johnson said: “That is certainly our intention, providing we stay on track.

“But I want to be sure that people will wait until we’re able to say that with more clarity later on because we must be guided by what’s happening with the pandemic.” 

His comments appeared to be at odds with reports last week that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, the government’s main scientific advisory body throughout the crisis, had warned against a return to the office this summer as it could cause a third wave, and have recommended that workers continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.

While acknowledging that many people will likely welcome the opportunity to return to the workplace, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, called on employers to remain flexible. "There will be just as many who would rather continue to work from home or in a more flexible way for a range of reasons,” he said.

Willmott added that any decisions by businesses on returning to the workplace needed to be “informed by meaningful consultation” with staff on whether a return to the workplace was sufficiently safe for each individual’s mental and physical wellbeing, and whether returning to the workplace would improve performance from both an employee and business perspective.

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“Employers should be seeking to meet individuals’ working preferences as far as possible while ensuring that the needs of the organisation are fully met," said Willmott.

Johnson’s comments yesterday were in response to a question by Conservative MP Felicity Buchan. “The economy in central London is hurting, partly because of the lack of commuters, and partly because of the lack of international visitors,” Buchan said, before asking the prime minister if he could confirm the plans to end the work from home guidance.

Responding to Buchan, Johnson said the “dynamism” of cities like London and elsewhere “depended on people being able to have confidence to go to work”, before adding: “I think it will come back. I think it could come back remarkably quickly, but it does depend on keeping the virus down.”

The current government advice is still for people to work from home unless they are unable to do their job without coming into the workplace.