Prime Minister tells his party’s spring conference folk have had enough ‘days off’ during the pandemic
Boris Johnson has sparked fury by referring to working from home as ‘days off’.
The Prime Minister suggested at the weekend that workers had had enough ‘days off’ and ought to return to the office. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also told an online event that if companies did not swiftly reopen premises then employees might ‘vote with their feet’ and leave their job.
Asked at Conservative conference about the possibility of an extra bank holiday to mark the end of lockdown Boris Johnson said, “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.”
Government advice remains that you must work from home if you can despite the comments by Boris Johnson, who leads the government. Equalities secretary Liz Truss said earlier this month that flexible working ought to become the norm. However the government of which she is a part has not proposed any legislation to make that reality. A consultation has been launched to report later in the year.
The PMs comments were immediately condemned by opposition politicians. Scientists warned it’s too soon to scrap the work from home advice. And employment experts suggested that in reality many firms will adopt hybrid working.
Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow employment rights and protections secretary, said the government should be strengthening the right of employees to work from home when possible. “A right to seek flexible and remote working should be matched by a duty on employers to grant such a request so far as is reasonable,” he said.
“At this point, the focus has to be on keeping new daily cases as low as possible, while the vaccination rollout continues,” said Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University. “We know that transmission is higher when people gather indoors for prolonged periods of time. Therefore, people should be encouraged to continue working from home for the foreseeable future.”
Neil Carberry is chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation. He said, “I think most five-day-a-week workers whose jobs are in a city like London, Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow will not be doing five days a week [in the office] when this is all over.”