Is England going to be sent back to WFH? Health Minister Edward Argar fails to rule out return to working from home as he says there are ‘no plans at the moment’ to make it compulsory amid spike in coronavirus cases
- The Government’s official advice on working from home changed in August
- Ministers still encouraging people to go back to office despite increase in cases
- Edward Argar said there are ‘no plans at the moment’ to make WFH compulsory
Health Minister Edward Argar today failed to rule out a return to compulsory working from home in England as coronavirus case numbers continue to increase.
Mr Argar said there are ‘no plans at the moment’ to advise all workers who can work from home to do so as he left the door open to the possibility in the coming weeks.
The minister said the Government is focused on ‘making the rule of six work’ and the hope is that the new restriction on social gatherings will be enough to get the virus back under control.
But he said the Government is ‘continuing to review the science’ as well as the latest infection rates amid fears that tougher lockdown rules could soon be reimposed.
His comments came after Boris Johnson urged people to stick to the new rule in order to avoid a return to even more draconian restrictions as he warned: ‘We don’t want to go there.’
Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics revealed the proportion of adults travelling to work has now risen above 60 per cent for the first time since it started its coronavirus impact survey back in May.
During lockdown the Government told all workers who were able to work remotely to do so.
Ministers then changed the advice at the start of August as they encouraged employees to head back to their desks amid fears over the long term future of town and city centres.
The Government is still encouraging workers to return to their normal commutes but the recent increase in coronavirus cases has sparked speculation that the back to work drive could be ditched.
Mr Argar was asked this morning on Sky News about the Prime Minister’s warning and whether people could be ordered to work from home again within a couple of weeks.
The Health Minister replied: ‘I think what the Prime Minister is saying there is he is emphasising just how important it is that the rule of six is adhered to.
‘It is there for a very good reason, it is to get that infection rate down and actually facilitate us getting back to normal life.’
Pushed on whether people will be told to work from home if the rule of six fails to curtail the spread of the disease, Mr Argar said: ‘We are continuing to review the science, we continue to review the infection rates.
‘There are no plans at the moment for any compulsory working from home or similar sort of regulations.
‘We are making the rule of six work.’
He added: ‘The rule of six we think will work and is working but we continue to review those infection rates.
‘We have got clear guidelines for workplaces. We believe it will work but it is up to all of us to make it work.’
The latest ONS data showed that between June 11-14 some 38 per cent of UK adults were working from home exclusively and 41 per cent were travelling to work.
But between September 9-13 only 20 per cent of UK adults were working from home exclusively while 62 per cent travelled to work.
Mr Johnson urged people overnight to follow the rule of six in order to avoid further restrictions on freedoms being put in place.
He told The Sun: ‘We don’t want to go there. We want this package to work.
‘We are urging people to be cautious. We want people to be disciplined to get the R down.’
At the start of September Mr Johnson had told his Cabinet that ‘people are going back to the office in huge numbers across our country and quite right too’.
The Government has faced sustained pressure from Tory MPs to do more to encourage workers to return to their offices.
They fear continued working from home will sound a death knell for many businesses in urban centres which are reliant on commuter footfall to survive.