Boris Johnson says Britons need to 'get back to office'

Boris Johnson says Britons need to 'get back to office'

03/28/2021

Boris Johnson sparks row after saying Britons have had enough ‘days off’ during pandemic and need to get ‘back to the office’

  • PM decried idea of post-lockdown Bank Holiday saying enough ‘days off’ already
  • Boris Johnson told Tory spring conference people need to get ‘back to the office’ 
  • Fears that move to working from home risks devastating city centres and pubs  

Boris Johnson has sparked a row by saying Britons have had enough ‘days off’ as he dismissed calls for a bank holiday when lockdown is lifted.

The PM was accused of being ‘irresponsible’ after he insisted the most important thing is to get people ‘back into the office’ when the pandemic subsides. 

The remark came as Mr Johnson addressed the online Conservative spring forum yesterday, delivering an upbeat message about his hopes for getting back to normal.

There have been warnings that the huge move to home working during Covid could permanently devastate city centres, hold back young people at the start of their careers and hamper team working.     

Boris Johnson was accused of being ‘irresponsible’ after he insisted the most important thing is to get people ‘back into the office’ when the pandemic subsides

There have been warnings that the huge move to home working during Covid could permanently devastate city centres. Pictured, central London yesterday 

The premier said he can see ‘nothing’ in coronavirus data to change his lockdown easing roadmap, and joked that he is looking forward to a pint and a haircut.

He said: ‘In just a few days’ time, I’m finally going to be able to go to the barbers.

‘But more important than that, I’m going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub.

‘And as things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love.’

However, he added that a ‘third wave’ is being witnessed in parts of Europe and said ‘bitter experience’ has taught him that this could hit the UK ‘three weeks later’.

Asked whether the UK can have a bank holiday called ‘national hangover day’ once the pandemic subsides, he said Chancellor Rishi Sunak ‘was pretty keen’ for people to get back into the office.

‘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,’ he added.

Shadow employment minister Andy McDonald told the Observer Mr Johnson’s remarks were ‘cavalier’.

‘He is trying appease the libertarian wing of his party on the one hand by talking about getting back to the office, then suggesting he is being cautious. He just throws out comments like this. You can’t ride two horses at once. It is not leadership, it is simply cavalier,’ he said.

He suggested that employers should have a duty to grant requests for remote working where possible, rather than treating home working as days off. 

‘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 added.

Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University, said people should be encouraged to work from home ‘for the foreseeable future’.  

‘At this point, the focus has to be on keeping new daily cases as low as possible, whilst the vaccination rollout continues,’ he said. 

‘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.’ 

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