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Home working is still a ‘perfectly good option’ for reducing the spread of Covid-19 and there is ‘absolutely no reason’ to change that advice, the UK’s chief scientific adviser has told MPs.
Sir Patrick Vallance said it was his view, and the view of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), that social distancing measures were still important for containing the virus – and this included working from home where possible.
Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated that he wanted the advice around working from home to change and for people to “go back to work if [they] can”.
But, speaking to the House of Commons science and technology committee, Vallance said: “Of the various distancing measures, working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option because it’s easy to do.
“I think a number of companies think it’s actually not detrimental to productivity. And in that situation, there’s absolutely no reason I can see to change it.”
Vallance said it was “quite probable” that the coronavirus would re-emerge in the UK “in different waves over a number of years”.
The number of people working from home on a regular basis is expected to remain high even after the pandemic has passed.
A survey by the CIPD found the proportion of people expecting to work from home regularly has increased to 37%, compared with 18% before the crisis, while organisations including Fujitsu and Barclays have said they expect to slash their office space.
Almost half of UK employees did some of their work from home during April, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Earlier this week, health secretary Matt Hancock denied claims that the government was considering making face coverings mandatory in offices.
However, Jonathan Ratcliffe, founder of serviced office space provider Offices.co.uk, said employers should make them compulsory in areas such as toilets, kitchens, receptions, lifts and shared areas.
“We need a clear plan for our staff and our client’s businesses, many need to get back into an office environment, and by enforcement by the government, we could make office buildings safer for the next six months. Businesses need that confidence right now,” he said.
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