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Boris Johnson has has said employees should be talking to their bosses about “looking to come back to work in a safe way”. But BBC’s Charlie Stayt questioned the Government’s advice before accusing security minister, James Brokenshire, of “shirking responsibility”. Mr Stayt said: “You effectively are shirking off the responsibility of making the decision about whether you should go back to work and now saying all of this hugely important decision making in the middle of the pandemic is all down to the employers just like with the pubs it was up to the landlords. Why doesn’t the Government make clear calls that people can understand?”
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the security minister replied: “That is precisely about the guidance that we issue.
“It’s about the guidance to employers, different settings whether that be shops or other places as well.
“We’ve given detailed advice to employers to ensure the safety of its workers.
“I think when you hear what the Prime Minister says, it absolutely is about taking account of what our experts believe.”
The Prime Minister faces resistance from his chief scientific adviser over efforts to get more people back to their workplaces.
The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said working from home remained a “perfectly good option” and there was “absolutely no reason” to change the advice which urges people to do it.
The official Government advice is still to “work from home if you can”.
Giving evidence to the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Sir Patrick said it was his view – and one shared by the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) – that “we’re still at a time when distancing measures are important”.
“Of the various distancing measures, working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option because it’s easy to do,” he told MPs.
“I think a number of companies think it’s actually not detrimental to productivity.
“And in that situation, absolutely no reason I can see to change it.”
Mr Johnson is expected to set out the next stages of the Government’s coronavirus response on Friday, with speculation he could change the official guidance, which still states that people should work from home if they can and which also advises public transport be used only for essential journeys.
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There are concerns about the impact of office workers staying away from their places of work, with the knock-on effects felt in shops and cafes which usually benefit from their trade.
On Monday, Mr Johnson said “people have gone to huge lengths to make their businesses Covid-secure”.
“What I want to see is people now, who have been working from home for a long time, now talking to their employers, talking to their places of work, about the steps that have been taken and looking to come back to work in a safe way,” he said.
Last week Mr Johnson said: “I think everybody has sort of taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ – I think we should now say, well, ‘go back to work if you can’.”
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