Work from home forever plans see ministers propose cheaper parking and al fresco dining to lure Brits back to offices
BRITS will be lured back to town centres with cheaper parking and more al fresco dining under plans to help high streets cope with the work from home revolution.
Ministers are crafting a "cities recovery strategy" that they hope will help boost footfall to shopping districts after the pandemic is over.
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There are fears millions will stay away from the office, hitting the "sandwich economy" of city centre businesses that cater to workers.
Government sources said ministers want to be "proactive" in encouraging people to return to work but will avoid a "diktat".
One told the Telegraph it is unlikely that guidance recommending people work from home will stay in place permanently.
They said: "I don't think that is where we will end up, although it's still very early. The ambition is to get back to more normality."
It comes amid claims millions of staff will be given the "default" right to stay away from the office – and it could be illegal to force them back.
News that workers may not return to offices comes as ministers draft a blueprint for a 'new normal' that will allow the UK to "live with Covid" after July 19.
But the plans are set to spark a fierce Cabinet battle – as both Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson have spoken of their wish to get Brits back at their desks.
The pair are among those who fear a permanent home-based work life could create "zombie towns".
It comes as:
- Face masks won't be a legal requirement on public transport from July 19, says Matt Hancock
- Summer holidays abroad could open up to double-jabbed Brits, it's claimed
- Britain now has the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe as the Indian – or Delta – mutation sends cases soaring
- Covid modelling which delayed June 21 freedom day ‘was based on out-of-date data’
- The JCVI says children shouldn't be given the jab until more is known about the risks
A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: "We're looking at introducing a default right to flexible working.
"That would cover things like reasonable requests by parents to start late so they can drop their kids at childcare.
"But in the case of office workers in particular, it would also cover working from home.
"That would be the default right unless the employer could show good reason why someone should not."
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove suggested this week that a hybrid model that included home working was likely to become the norm for millions.
And he said: "We won't go back to the status quo."
A leaked memo suggests we'll all be asked to continue working from home if we can – even after the delayed 'freedom day' in July.
However, mandatory working from home will be scrapped – giving many a choice about whether they'll tackle the commute again, Politico reports.
This morning, Treasury minister Jesse Norman said it would be up to individual employers and organisations to decide if they force workers back to the office.
He said: "This is going to be very company or organisation specific and any guidance the Government puts out is going to have to recognise that.
"Patterns of work were evolving before the virus and as in many cases the effect of a pandemic, the effect of the national crisis is to accelerate the process of change and that's certainly happened."
Civil servants suggest a “hybrid approach” where the Government puts in place measures to help those who don't need to physically attend work.
They say offices should be kitted out with new ventilation and face masks should remain in communal areas.
But perspex screens between desks, which were put in place by many employers last year, could actually increase spread of the virus and should be binned.
The document also warns there may need to be a return to tougher social distancing measures in winter to avoid a fourth wave.
Scientists have advised the Government that self-isolation for Brits who have Covid symptoms should become the norm from now on.
That means those who have much more minor ailments like the common cold could be forced to stay at home until they get a negative test.
No 10 insisted that no decisions have yet been made on the proposals, with a review into long-term social distancing measures still ongoing.
A government spokesman said: “We have paused at Step 3 for up to four weeks due to the new Delta variant, and we will continue to assess the latest data on this variant over the coming weeks.”
It comes after a new survey revealed a third of employees are now working from home — and 85 per cent of them want to keep it that way.
But the analysis also suggested employers are more sceptical about the change.
Almost two-fifths expected most of their staff to return to the workplace within the next three months.
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