Companies remain cautious about the latest easing of the lockout for England and warn that a massive return to work immediately is unlikely.
British chambers of commerce said businesses still needed “crystal clear official advice” on security.
And the Institute of Directors said “there is a lot of caution” in the country.
New guidelines cover the use of public transport, while advice to employers will change from 1 August.
Companies will have more leeway to bring staff back to the workplace if that is safe, said the Prime Minister.
Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, doubted that there would be a significant return to offices and other workplaces anytime soon. “Businesses have to balance the risks and won’t want to increase the possibility of downstream closures by rushing.
“On top of that, not everything is under the control of a company. Child care is an issue for many employees, and even if the guidelines are changed, some employees who use public transportation will still be affected. ”
Other employers’ organizations have said that companies still want government support for the return to work process.
Mike Cherry, national president of the Federation of Small Businesses, said that small businesses in particular would need more support to recover workers.
“Small businesses are responsible for consulting with employees and putting the right measures in place to ensure a safe return to work,” he said. “After weeks of little or no income, they will need help – both funding and advice – to get there. ”
British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have said that companies should be given tax breaks to reopen their offices. BCC General Manager Adam Marshall said, “Businesses should be able to offset the investments they make to ensure their premises are protected by Covid against their tax bill, which would help many people to return. in the workplace over the next few months. “
The TUC supported calls for more business support. TUC secretary general Frances O’Grady said Friday’s announcement was that the government “would pass the buck to this big decision for employers.”
She stressed that returning to work safely required a functioning NHS test and trace system, “Yet progress in test and trace is still uneven.” She added: “A safe return to the workplace also requires much greater investment in public transport so that people can get around.”
Many employers expect homework to remain in place for thousands of businesses despite Friday’s announcement.
“People are not comfortable going back to the office yet,” said Ruth Duston, general manager of the South Westminster Business Improvement District, which represents the interests of 5,000 businesses across London.
“Even when the offices start to come in, we may only be looking at a maximum of a third of the workers who return to the offices at some point to allow for social distancing. ”
She said cities should prepare for a permanent change in work practices. “People will come back [to offices] but it will likely be a gradual process over several months. When they do, it will be to collaborate and exchange with their colleagues rather than spending eight hours at an office. ”
At a glance: the latest changes in England
- Of July 25 indoor gymnasiums, swimming pools and other sports facilities may reopen
- Sure August 1 government to update advice on work, asking employers to decide how and where their workers can work safely
- As of the same date, most of the remaining leisure establishments, including bowling, ice rinks, casinos and all close contact services such as beauticians, will be allowed to reopen.
- Theater and indoor concerts can resume with a socially distant audience
- Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will also be allowed from next month
- Of September, schools, crèches and colleges will be open to all children and young people full time, while universities are also trying to reopen as much as possible
- Of October, government plans to allow public to return to stadiums, while conferences and other business events may resume, subject to pilot results
Marshall said many BCC members focus on changing flexible work practices rather than bringing everyone back to the office. “Companies will assess how they want to work in the future. Many have seen benefits for productivity and work-life balance in the past few months and will want to keep elements of their new normal, “he said.
And the IoD said that as many as two-thirds of its members said they intended to maintain increased flexibility of the work in place after the lockout ended.
A recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that, overall, employers report that homeworkers are at least as productive as other workers and plan to double the proportion of staff who regularly work from home once the crisis is over.