Boris Johnson today insisted that people should continue to work from home ‘if possible’ despite growing calls for him to get millions more Britons back into the office to prevent thousands of businesses that rely on them going to the wall.
Tory MP Steve Baker told MailOnline that the challenge faced by many businesses on high streets due to people working from home was getting bigger every day and declared: ‘The sooner we are back to real life the better’.
He said: ‘Every day it becomes clearer that vast amounts of capital are invested in the old normal. Every day we keep people away from those businesses is a day those businesses suffer and come closer to bankruptcy’.
Fellow Conservative Bob Blackman also told MailOnline he is also worried about the ‘hardship’ pubs, cafes and restaurants will suffer and later asked the Prime Minister in the Commons whether his advice on working from home remained the same despite him easing the lockdown in other areas of the economy.
Mr Johnson replied: ‘Yes, of course that is right Mr Speaker…. In determining whether you need to go to work it is important for employers to discuss this with your employees as we go forward. But of course you should work from home if that is possible.’ The advice to avoid public transport if you can, also remains in place.
It came as Pret could be about to lay off staff after sales collapsed by 85 per cent at its 450-plus stores because millions of workers and tourists are no longer able to head there for food and drink every day.
The CBI also told MailOnline that more businesses are raring to get staff back to work if they can after Mr Johnson eased the lockdown. Matthew Percival, CBI Director of People and Skills, said: ‘Lessons learnt through this crisis mean that more people are likely to work from home for at least part of their time in the future. But as lockdown eases many companies will want to return to their factories and offices as soon as it is safe to do so’.
Boris Johnson has revealed that the lockdown is being eased again from July 4 but has not changed the guidance on working from home saying people should still do so ‘if possible’
Pret has revealed that its sales are down 85 per cent because of a lack of office workers and tourists visiting for food and drink
The Tube is getting busier every day as masks became mandatory and more people return to work
Tory MP Steve Baker (pictured) told MailOnline that the challenge faced by many businesses on high streets due to people working from home was getting bigger every day and declared: ‘The sooner we are back to real life the better’
Business leaders have also said that having staff together in offices is better for productivity and creativity with Zaid Al-Zaidy, CEO of The Beyond Collective digital group in London declaring: ‘Working from home forever just ain’t going to cut it’.
HR experts have also warned MailOnline that some of the nine millions Britons at home have developed ‘furlough fever’ and are enjoying ‘a paid holiday’ at home too much to return to work with the situation ‘getting worse every day’ the multi-billion pound scheme continues.
Mr Johnson today announced his most significant easing of the lockdown with people given the green light to meet up indoors for the first time in months while cinemas, pubs and hairdressers will reopen in England from July 4, when the two-metre rule will be slashed to one-metre.
What can re-open on July and what will have to remain closed?
Boris Johnson unveiled a widely expected relaxation of the lockdown today.
Bars, pubs, restaurants, bingo halls and hairdressers ware among venues that will be allowed to reopen from July 4 as long as they are ‘Covid secure’, meaning they have social distancing measures in place, which means keeping people apart plus extra measures like screens and masks.
But others will be forced to remain closed as they are still seen as too high rick to be allowed to open their doors.
They include indoor gyms, nail bars, tattoo parlours and nightclubs.
Here is a list of what can and cannot open from July 4 under new the lockdown plan.
Reopening from July 4
- Restaurants and cafes – tables one metre apart but facing away,
- Bars and pubs – customers sign a guest book, order by app where possible;
- Hotels and B&Bs – without buffet breakfasts and meals from room service;
- Holiday homes
- Campsites and caravan parks – only where they can comply with hygiene guidance in shared washing and toilet facilities;
- Places of worship – singing is banned as it poses a ‘particular’ risk;
- Libraries – books to be quarantined when handled by the public;
- Community centres – with limits on use and strict distancing;
- Museums and art galleries – extra ventilation and one-way systems
- Workplace canteens – with contactless payment where possible;
- Cinemas – rows of seats left empty to maintain distance and
- Bingo halls – tables arranged to face away;
- Theatres and concert halls (but no live performances) – singing not allowed due to risk of spread;
- Barbers and hair salons – screens separating stations, minimal conversation;
- Outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gyms – limits on numbers and advice to wash hands;
- Funfairs, theme and adventure parks, arcades – rides to be scrupulously cleaned, and run at lower capacity if necessary;
- Indoor leisure centres and facilities including indoor gaming – some sports such as squash courts still not allowed;
- Social clubs, model villages
- Indoor attractions at aquariums, zoos and safari parks, farms and wildlife centres – hygiene precautions and capacity restrictions;
Remaining closed after July 4
- Bowling alleys
- Ice skating rinks
- Indoor play areas, including soft play
- Nail bars and beauty salons
- Massage, tattoo and piercing parlours
- Indoor fitness and dance studios
- Indoor gyms and sports venues and facilities
- Swimming polls and water parks
- Exhibition and conference centres where used for external events
But the Prime Minister’s advice for the UK workforce to work from home unless it is impossible remains in place, sparking major concerns that businesses who rely on office staff to buy their coffee, pints, food, gifts and a plethora of other services will not survive, leading to many more unemployed people.
Tory MP Bob Blackman raised the issue in the Commons today and said high streets will face hardship, but warned that working from home was likely to remain more common whatever the government said.
‘I suspect now people have discovered they can work from home, companies have discovered they can work from home, what will happen is an awful lot of people will work from home. But they won’t work from home all the time,’ he told MailOnline.
‘I suspect people will not travel into central London as often as they have done.’
Mr Blackman said there could be ‘benefits’ in terms of productivity and less travel time. But he added: ‘The disbenefit is they won’t go to shops, they won’t go to the eating places, they won’t go to the pubs or other facilities except the one day a week when they do go to work.’
Fears are mounting over job cuts at Pret a Manger after a leaked video revealed dire sales in lockdown.
Staff at the sandwich chain are braced for an announcement on the ‘jobs situation’ on July 8 after an online meeting involving boss Pano Christou.
He said Pret’s global weekly sales had fallen to £3m, around 85pc less that what they would normally be, as city centre locations are starved of commuters and tourists.
Its cafes need around 60pc of normal sales to break even, which it hopes to hit in September. But many office workers are not expecting to return to work until at least the autumn, with some companies saying they will not reopen offices until 2021.
In the leaked conversation Christou said: ‘What will be the case is, on the July 8, we’ll be doing a broader communication to the teams.’
In response to the leak, a Pret spokesman said yesterday: ‘We will make sure that Pret’s team members are the first to hear about any changes.
‘We will update our team members in early July once the plan has been finalised.’
Businesses also believe it will be good for staff to return as soon as safely possible.
Zaid Al-Zaidy, Group chief executive, The Beyond Collective, told Campaign: ‘I think isolation narrows the thought process.’
‘Yes, we’ve all experienced some positive symptoms of the WFH infection. But we mustn’t forget that it’s easier to work remotely for a few weeks when you know your colleagues really well and have previously bonded with them over hundreds of pints of beer. Creative companies need creative cultures with creative people who, through chemistry, create amazing solutions to brand problems. So WFH forever just ain’t going to cut it’.
Financial support for firms furloughing workers -officially called the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme – was unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in March and launched the following month.
It aims to help businesses retain staff who would otherwise have been laid off, providing them with a grant worth 80pc or up to £2,500 per month of a furloughed employee’s wages.
More than nine million people have been placed on the scheme by 1.1m firms, official figures have shown, at a total cost of £20.8bn so far.
Although the scheme is gradually being down from August – with firms forced to contribute – it is still expected to cost £60bn by the time it is closed at the end of October.
Almost one in four people believe it will take years for life to go back to what it was before the coronavirus outbreak.
And some think things will never go back to our old version of reality.
The belief that the virus has permanently changed the way we live has been spreading as the weeks of lockdown have gone by, the report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
It suggested that many people have grown accustomed to lockdown. Well-being surveys which found a surge of anxiety in March and April say nervousness and worry has fallen back towards normal levels, and happiness measures have ticked up by more than 10 per cent since March.
A man travels on a bus wearing a face mask in central Londo after face coverings became mandatory on public transport last week
Britain’s shopping streets, including Oxford Street, have been deserted for months but are slowly getting busier
The adjustment to lockdown has come despite an estimated 12.5 million people whose families have taken an economic hit, and an assessment that almost two thirds of workers are in jobs that have been affected by the shutdown.
Pubs warn customers to pre-book as they brace for a rush on reopening
Pub owners have warned customers to only turn up if they have pre-booked a table as bosses prepare to reopen after being shut for more than three months.
Customers are expected to be allowed back into pubs from July 4 as they are allowed to open again after shutting on March 20 just before lockdown began.
But pub-goers may be asked to register before having a drink at their local under plans to limit the spread of Covid-19 as England’s hospitality industry reopens.
Some pubs already have all their tables reserved on the opening day – dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ – with staff taken off furlough to help cope with bookings.
And politicians are expected to go on a PR blitz around the country to encourage people to return to pubs which will reopen with social distancing measures in place.
The report, based on ONS surveys, said: ‘As average anxiety has fallen, the average time we think it will take for things to return to normal has increased and one in four of us now expect it will take over a year or will never go back to normal.’
It found that 24.6 per cent of people consulted said it would take years to return to normal, a level not far short of the share of the population who think things will bounce back within six months, just over 30 per cent.
The finding means that just over five million people have changed their minds since the start of lockdown to come to the belief that the return to normality will be a long term project.
The decline in anxiety is a finding that applies to the whole population, but some groups continue to worry.
Among them are parents – the ONS said earlier this week that anxiety among married couples has doubled since March, mainly because of the need to cope with home schooling of children.
It said: ‘Parents were more adversely affected than adults without children in the house: they were around twice as likely to report reduced income or to have been furloughed, and less than half were able to cover a necessary expense as over 20 per cent of them found childcare impacting their work.
‘Home-schooling was found to negatively affect lower income families’ well-being.’
Customers queue up for a drink outside The Dynamo bar in Putney, South London, on June 19
Cinemas, pubs and hairdressers will today get the green light to reopen on July 4, as Boris Johnson signals the end of lockdown. The relaxation comes amid growing optimism that the virus, which has claimed more than 42,000 lives in the UK, is finally reducing to manageable proportions
Has furlough peaked? Number of jobs covered by massive bailout has risen by just 100,000 in a week to 9.2million – lowest yet – with cost hitting £22.9bn
The Government’s furlough scheme for workers may have peaked according to figures released today that show its lowest increase so far.
Just 100,000 new roles were added in the past week to take the total to 9.2million, according to Treasury numbers released this morning.
But the value of the scheme is not showing signs of plateauing, with costs rising by more than £2billion to £22.9billion in the week to June 21.
Slash NI and VAT to get the economy back on its feet, says Javid
Former chancellor Sajid Javid heaped pressure on successor Rishi Sunak to cut taxes to help Britain recover from coronavirus today as he called for reductions in National Insurance and VAT.
Mr Javid, who quit in February after a bruising clash with Boris Johnson and his aide Dominic Cummings, called for a ‘significant temporary’ reduction in NI to make it cheaper for employers to take on staff.
He also said that a 3p VAT cut would pump £60billion into the economy over three years, in a move that adds to pressure on Mr Sunak to take an axe to taxes.
In a report for the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) think tank he warned that the UK is unlikely to make a swift economic recovery after businesses were mothballed for three months.
‘Early hopes of a V-shaped recovery’ had ‘proved optimistic’ he said, and ‘some long-term damage to the economy’ had become ‘unavoidable’, with as many as 2.5 million people out of work due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
But in order to speed up the rate of people re-entering employment, Mr Javid argued in the report After The Virus, published on Tuesday, that ministers must make it easier for businesses to hire workers.
Furloughed staff will be allowed to return to work on a part-time basis – a month earlier than originally planned.
Retailers have also reopened their doors from June 15, which could account for some of the levelling off.
But future figures will give a better indication of whether Britons are going back to work, as claims can be made for a whole month’s worth of salary.
The Treasury also revealed loans to businesses hit by the coronavirus lockdown totalled more than £40 billion up to June 21.
They included including £28.1 billion in bounceback loans, £10.5 billion through the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS), £2.1 billion in coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme (CLBILS) to larger firms and £236.2 million as part of its Future Fund.
Earlier this month it was revealed that almost a fifth of the populations of some parts of Britain have been furloughed due to coronavirus.
London has been the worst affected area, with all but one of the areas with the most furloughed posts covered by the Job Retention Scheme laying within the capital.
Those with the lowest number are to be found in sparsely populated areas of England Scotland and Wales, the Treasury statistics showed.