PM urges return to work in conflict with official advice recommending that people work from home

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Boris Johnson has repeated his call for employees to consider returning to work – but official government guidance continues to urge people to work from home where they can.

During a visit to the London Ambulance Service (LAS), the prime minister reiterated comments he made on Friday 10 July. He said people “should start to think about getting back to work” if their employers had made their workplaces safe against coronavirus.

“Think about getting back to work” but “work from home if you can”

Speaking to reporters on 13 July at LAS headquarters in Waterloo, Johnson said:

Where businesses have made a huge effort to make the workplace safe, I do think people should start to think about getting back to work but provided we all continue to follow the precautions.

However, justice secretary Robert Buckland, when asked about the official guidance on the government’s website, confirmed it is for people to work from home where possible. He told ITV:

That’s still there – work from home if you can, if you are able to do things remotely then carry on.

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But also work with your employer, your firm or particular entity you are with and increasingly we will see more and more people coming back to work in a staggered way but in a safe way as well.

Meanwhile, Downing Street told reporters that the formal advice on home working is unlikely to be altered this week.

Discrepancy

During a briefing with reporters, the prime minister’s official spokesperson was asked about the discrepancy between Johnson’s stance and the official advice. The spokesperson said:

What the advice says is that employers should decide in consultation with their workers whether it is viable for them to continue working from home.

Where it is decided that workers should come in to their place of work, then this will need to be reflected in the risk assessment and actions taken to manage the risk of transmission.

The PM set out on Friday that if you’re obeying the guidelines, and provided it is safe, then you should look to go back to work.

Asked whether the guidelines would be updated, the Number 10 spokesperson said:

The guidance we have is under review but it does say employers and employees should discuss and agree working arrangements to best suit the needs of the business.

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