Downing Street has denied the existence of a ‘back to the office’ campaign to get people in the workplace, despite plans for new social media activity in the coming days.
Ministers fear huge job losses in town and city centre shops and cafes if workers do not return to their pre-lockdown commuter patterns.
But the Telegraph has reported a rift in government over whether the timing was right to be encouraging staff to return to their desks, with the coronavirus rate still growing in parts of the country.
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England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty was said to be on ‘resignation watch’ after fearing the government was going too far with its messaging on work.
The launch of a public information campaign pushing for home working to be curtailed was reportedly put back as a result of the splits.
But the prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: ‘There has never been a ‘back to work’ campaign.’
He said social media posts, along with paid adverts, would this weekend encourage employers to consult the government’s guidance on making workplaces ‘Covid-secure’ to ensure ‘more people can spend some of their time working from the office’.
A ‘partnership’ with regional and local media, in place since June, will carry a similar message ‘shortly’, said the Number 10 spokesman.
‘We are promoting how to make your workplace Covid-secure so more people can work from the office,’ he added.
‘What we’ve also done is change the guidance to give employers more discretion over how their employees can work safely.
‘The PM does want to see people discussing their working arrangements with their employers.’
Downing Street said there was ‘no update’ on how many civil servants were back in Whitehall but confirmed department bosses were having to report to the Cabinet Office about how progress was faring in terms of getting offices ready.
‘We would expect to see more civil servants returning to their workplaces over the next coming weeks,’ the prime minister’s spokesman said.