Government has ‘no intention’ of making the return to the office compulsory

The government has “no intention” of making it compulsory to return to the office, a minister said.

“We don’t have any intention to make it compulsory to return to the office,” Kit Malthouse, Minister of State in the Home Office, told Sky News on 18 June. “Our manifesto did contain a pledge to consult on more flexible working, and we’ll be doing that later this year.”

Malthouse’s comments come as the government pushes back the fourth and last phase of the roadmap out of lockdown from 21 June to 19 July, thereby extending the work from home order for companies.

Malthouse added, however, that “it’s very hard for young people to learn remotely, to interact with their seniors and to learn from them, which help with their training and their skillset”.

READ London, Paris and Frankfurt: Five charts tracking the return to work

The extension of lockdown, due to the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, also means the publication of the social distancing review, carried out by the Cabinet Office and key for the organisation of office spaces, has been delayed as well.

A number of City firms, which had laid out plans to bring some of their staff back by 21 June, had to roll back their plans, including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan.

In the Conservative manifesto from the 2019 election, which saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson secure his election, the party said: “We will encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to”.

READ Feel pushed to go back to the office? Here’s what you need to ask your boss first

London has consistently lagged behind other major European cities, with more people working from home during the pandemic in the English capital. Companies in the city have also been slower to bring employees back to workplaces.

In the last few months, however, most companies have said they will implement hybrid working, where employees will split their time between the office and their home.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim

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