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Future of Work

Businesses remain cautious about the latest lockdown easing for England, and warn that any mass return to work immediately was unlikely.

The British Chambers of Commerce said companies still needed “crystal-clear official guidance” on safety.

And the Institute of Directors said “there is a significant amount of caution out there” in the country. New guidelines cover using public transport, while advice for employers will change from 1 August.

Companies will have more discretion to bring staff back to workplaces if it is safe to do so, the PM has said.

Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, doubted there would be a significant return to offices and other workplaces any time soon. “Businesses need to balance the risks, and won’t want to increase the possibility of closures down the line by rushing back.

“On top of this, not everything is in a company’s control. Childcare is an issue for many employees, and even if the guidance is changed, some staff who use public transport will still be concerned.”

Other employers’ organisations said firms still wanted government support to help smooth the return to work process.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said that smaller firms in particular would need more support in order to get workers back.

“Small firms are being tasked with consulting employees and putting the right measures in place to ensure a safe return to work,” he said. “After weeks of little or no income, they will need help – both funding and advice – to make that happen.”

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said companies should get tax breaks to re-open offices. BCC director general Adam Marshall said: “Businesses should be able to offset the investments they make to ensure their premises are Covid-secure against their tax bill, which would help many to return to workplaces over the coming months.”

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