Ministers should be doing more to get workers back into the office, a Daily Mail poll reveals. Voters fear that Britain’s economic recovery will be hampered if staff continue to stay away from city centres.
The survey, conducted by JL Partners, found that 47 per cent want the Government to step up efforts to encourage employees back to their desks – compared to 22 per cent who disagreed.
More than half – 51 per cent – believe civil servants should set an example to the rest of the country by returning to their offices in Whitehall, compared to 21 per cent who said they should not.
More than half – 51 per cent – believe civil servants should set an example to the rest of the country by returning to their offices in Whitehall. Pictured: Boris Johnson
Meanwhile a majority (54 per cent) said getting back to the office was important for the economy. The poll suggests strong public support for ministers to get Britain back to work next month as the summer holidays end and schools return.
The Government scrapped official advice to work from home at the beginning of this month. But efforts to stimulate a return to offices appear to have stalled, leaving many city centres looking more like ghost towns, even at rush hour.
There are concerns that many shops and restaurants that rely on office workers may not be able to survive. Many businesses are not planning for workers to return to offices until at least the end of the year, while firms including Facebook UK and RBS said staff will not go back until 2021.
In a boost to efforts to get more employees back at their desks, Matt Hancock earlier this week revealed there has been only a ‘relatively low’ number of workplace infections. Instead new cases are predominantly coming from social gatherings held inside homes, he said.
The Health Secretary said the Government had ruled out copying France, which is making face coverings compulsory in almost all workplaces as it tackles a resurgence in coronavirus cases. From the start of next month, masks will have to be worn in all shared spaces in French offices and factories when there is more than one employee present.
Mr Hancock said similar measures would not be introduced on this side of the Channel, adding: ‘The reason is that the evidence from NHS Test and Trace for where people catch the disease is that very largely they catch it from one household meeting another household, usually in one of their homes.
‘And so it’s that household transmission that is the core group of passing on this virus in this country. The amount of people who’ve caught it in workplaces is relatively low we think from the evidence that we’ve got.’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) said: ‘No-one is under any illusions, our economy has been hit hard by the pandemic – but today’s retail sales figures are a positive sign of Britain bouncing back’
Research this month revealed that British office workers have returned to their desks at a much slower pace than staff in France, Germany, Italy or Spain, as they continue to work from home following the lockdown.
Only a third (34 per cent) of UK white-collar employees have gone back to offices, while in Europe almost three-quarters of staff (68 per cent) have done so, according to the analysis by Morgan Stanley. In a glimmer of good economic news, retail sales bounced back to pre-pandemic levels in July – the first full month non-essential shops were allowed to reopen.
After falling a record 18.1 per cent in April, sales are 3 per cent above February’s mark according to official data.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘No-one is under any illusions, our economy has been hit hard by the pandemic – but today’s retail sales figures are a positive sign of Britain bouncing back.’
However, the Office for National Statistics said a distinct split is emerging as food and online retailers surpass February’s sales figures, while non-food businesses have not. Officials said fashion store sales were the ‘worst hit during the pandemic’ and still 25.7 per cent lower than they were in February.
Meanwhile, online sales are still more than 50 per cent higher than before the crisis. The online boom has fuelled concerns about the future of the High Street as a string of retailers, including Boots, Marks & Spencer, Pret A Manger and WH Smith have announced brutal job cuts.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, warned the ‘survival of many retail businesses hangs in the balance’. ‘The latest ONS sales results mask a crisis under way in some parts of the retail industry,’ she said.
Separate figures from HM Revenue & Customs also showed the housing market recovered last month. Some 70,710 homes were sold in July, up 14.5 per cent in a month.