Ministers considering using Covid certificates to allow offices to reopen without social distancing once most adults have been vaccinated and bring people back into deserted cities
- Review into use of Covid status to enter pubs is also looking at plan for offices
- Ministers hoping to entice staff back to workplaces once work from home ends
- There are fears that if they don’t return, city centres could be decimated
Ministers are examining plans to allow offices to open up fully, without social distancing, once the majority of UK adults have been vaccinated, using Covid certificates.
A review led by Michael Gove which is looking at whether documents showing the vaccine status could be used to allow customers into pubs is also looking at workplaces, it was reported today.
The idea of using it in pubs and other hospitality has sparked controversy and opposition from civil liberties campaigners and MPs.
But this has not stopped officials examining whether it could be extended to offices, factories and other workplaces, the Financial Times reported.
It comes after attempts by senior ministers to set the ground for staff to return to workplaces when work from home rules cease.
There have been warnings that the huge move to home working during Covid could permanently devastate city centres, hold back young people at the start of their careers and hamper team working.
There have been warnings that the huge move to home working during Covid could permanently devastate city centres.
Asked about the wider plan for covid identity documents at the weekend, Cultruee Secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC: ‘We’re looking at the civil liberties concerns about it, we’re looking at the practicality of it.
‘But also we’re looking at the benefits it could bring in the way that you described in order to facilitate further easing of the economy and allowing us to get back to doing the things that we love.
‘Of course we would never look to do this on a permanent basis, it’s just whether it might be a tool in the short run.’
Last week Rishi Sunak warned workers could ‘vote with their feet’ and quit their jobs if they are not allowed to return to the office at least part-time.
The Chancellor said that sitting with colleagues in the workplace encourages ‘meetings that happen by chance’ and ‘people riffing off each other’.
He urged businesses which have benefited from the pandemic to help fuel the economic recovery by investing and hiring.
Companies across the UK are looking at how to tackle the issue of remote versus office working once lockdown ends, with many backing a hybrid model.
Mr Sunak last week admitted that working from home was ‘probably’ here to stay – at least part-time.
But in a joint interview with the Daily Telegraph and the Sun, he touted the benefits of the physical workplace, saying the opportunities afforded in an office cannot be beaten.
However, Boris Johnson was criticised at the weekend for saying Britons have had enough ‘days off’ as he dismissed calls for a bank holiday when lockdown is lifted.
The PM was accused of being ‘irresponsible’ after he insisted the most important thing is to get people ‘back into the office’ when the pandemic subsides.
The remark came as Mr Johnson addressed the online Conservative spring forum yesterday, delivering an upbeat message about his hopes for getting back to normal.
Asked whether the UK can have a bank holiday called ‘national hangover day’ once the pandemic subsides, he said Chancellor Rishi Sunak ‘was pretty keen’ for people to get back into the office.
‘The general view is people have had quite a few days off, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to see their way round to making a passing stab at getting back into the office,’ he added.
Shadow employment minister Andy McDonald told the Observer Mr Johnson’s remarks were ‘cavalier’.
‘He is trying appease the libertarian wing of his party on the one hand by talking about getting back to the office, then suggesting he is being cautious. He just throws out comments like this. You can’t ride two horses at once. It is not leadership, it is simply cavalier,’ he said.
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