Government to rip up ‘work from home’ order and defer to engagers

The government will rip up its “work from home if you can” order which it has had in place for contractors and others since May due to covid-19, and ask workplaces to decide instead.

From August 1st, it will be left to employer “discretion” as to whether individuals continue to work from home or, following official covid-secure guidance, “return to their place of work”.

Either way, the beginning of next month marks the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began that people will no longer be told by the government to work from home.

'Give employers more discretion'

In a speech on Friday, Boris Johnson said: “As we reopen our society and economy, it’s right that we give employers more discretion while continuing to ensure employees are kept safe.”

The prime minister added that the return of “audiences in stadia” will follow in October, meaning conferences and “business events” can then recommence -- if they are covid-secure.   

In line with the PM’s ‘back to business’ announcement, the government updated the official covid-19 employer guidance on “Managing your customers, visitors and contractors.”

'Contractor searches may need adapting'

The detail for the latter workers is scant, but the first of four action points on entering workplaces says physical searches of contractors “may need adapting to adhere to social distancing measures.”

The ‘metre-plus’ rule was not mentioned by Mr Johnson, but he implied it may be removed “in time for Christmas,” as he expects “a more significant return to normality” by December.

Yet effective since July 17th, everybody can return to using public transport, meaning the government no longer says avoid it, despite “alternative means” still being encouraged.  

'Give business confidence'

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Johnson said the incoming workplace guidance on employers deciding ‘WfH’ policy was designed to “give people hope and to give business confidence.”

But both people who direct their own company and businesses which are incorporated appear to be anything but confident, according to a petition handed to HM Treasury last week.

“Your repeated assertions that there is support available for people in our situation, is I’m afraid -- for hundreds of thousands of business owners, simply not true,” campaigner ForgottenLtd, which delivered the petition told the chancellor.

'Sunak has a weak excuse'

Also addressing Rishi Sunak in an online video following support from Caroline Lucas MP and Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, the campaigner said: “Your reason for not helping small business owners during this pandemic being because of administrative complexity is, in [Treasury Select Committee chair] Mel Stride’s words, a rather ‘weak excuse’.”

According to the petition, the government ought to have financially “looked after” limited company directors during the coronavirus pandemic, in line with the “support package” it provided to both conventional employees and the self-employed. The petition is open and still accepting signatures.

“Your policies are damaging families, destroying businesses, decimating communities and taking a terrible toll on people’s mental health,” ForgottenLtd further tells Mr Sunak in the video. “We’re asking you to start supporting small business, we desperately need some government support.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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