Government plans fresh push to 'force' people back to work insisting it's 'safe'

Commuters are being told it is “safe to go back to work” as the Government mounts a fresh push to get people back into the office.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was a “limit” to remote working, amid fears over the economic impact on town and city centre businesses if staff stay at home.

The Government is expected to launch a publicity blitz to encourage people back to work from next week. But union bosses said people will not be bullied into going back to office, warning: “Ministers are increasingly sounding like dinosaurs.”

And Labour ’s Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell blasted: “Forcing people to choose between their health and their job is unconscionable.”

Mr Shapps, who did interviews from his home yesterday, said: “It is now safe to go back. Your employer should have made arrangements to make sure it is coronavirus-safe to work.”

He said there is a “limit to remote working” and his department is “encouraging people back now”. Sources have denied reports that ministers could warn workers that they risk losing their jobs if they refuse to return to the office. Ms Powell said the Government should “categorically rule out” telling staff they could lose their jobs.

Grant Shapps said it is now safe to go back to offices

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said there should be “no question of people’s jobs being vulnerable if they do not return to the office”. PM Boris Johnson has been urging to go back to work since July, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak is winding up the furlough scheme in October.

Ministers have ordered civil servants back to work to set an example, but No10 has failed to provide figures for how many staff are back. Dave Penman, of FDA union, said: “Ministers are increasingly sounding like dinosaurs. Millions of employees are working from home very successfully.

“Employers are recognising that the world of work has changed and are embracing it.”

TUC union’s Frances O’Grady said MPs need a credible plan to get people back in the office, rather than a “scare campaign”. She said they must also address the “childcare crisis”.

A British Chamber of Commerce poll in July found that 62% of firms will allow some or all staff to work remotely for the next year. But with fewer commuters in town and city centres, shops are struggling. The Centre for Retail Research warns job losses could hit 235,704 this year, with 20,600 store closures. Chains like Pret a Manger and John Lewis have cut jobs.

The Independent Sage scientists’ group accused MPs of “threatening” staff into going back to work without adequate safety measures.


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