Contractors should no longer work from home – Boris Johnson

Contractors should no longer work from home following a decision by Boris Johnson to lift Plan B coronavirus restrictions in England.

Effective since yesterday, the removal of ‘WFH’ guidance means people should now “speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office,” the prime minister said.

Guidance to work from home “if you can” was introduced in England on Monday December 13th, on the back of rising covid cases due to the Omicron variant.

But the PM yesterday told the House of Commons that work from home could end because scientists believe “it is likely” the Omicron wave has “now peaked nationally.”

'Baffling and nonsensical'

The ending of work from home will please 6CATS, a contracting overseas advisory, which described the introduction of the guidance last month as “baffling and nonsensical.”

“We have all shared our struggles caused by working from home. Why should we ask our team to work from home when we know this impacts them negatively?”

Reflecting at the time, the advisory’s Michelle Reilly continued: “Our office is in the middle of the City of London. We have watched businesses close, bars and restaurants sit empty.

“[So] we will give our staff the choice based on what they feel is right for them, but we are not closing our office, and we will not contribute to the death of the city.”

'Don't trust staff'

Tax advisories haven’t been totally adhering to the now-removed work from home guidance either.

“A local but much larger firm than us isn’t allowing its team to WFH this month despite [the official government] guidance,” acumenica, a contractor accountancy firm posted last month.

The firm’s Alan Broome explained: “There’s no reason that their team needs to be in the office. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that the partners don’t trust their staff enough to do their jobs without being in the office.

“Imagine employing and paying people you don’t trust enough to do their job, without having somebody keeping an eye on them.”

'Talking to my own face'

Other industry figures will be pleased that work from home is ending because of the tech-etiquette issues which video-calling poses. As a lifestyle app boss knows all too well.

Nearbuy.com’s Ankur Warikoo reflected: “I always thought a Zoom call means a video call [but the other day with a former colleague my] call started with his camera switched off.

“While mine was on. I spent an hour talking to my own face and his initials, constantly wondering if it will be rude to switch my camera off.”

'Rushed and half-baked'

Meanwhile, responding to a poll yesterday by recruitment giant Reed as to how the mass return to the office will affect organisations, a LinkedIn user replied:

“Around Christmas, travelling rules and general covid rules were in place to a ridiculous extent.

“But now, suddenly, only three-four weeks later, life is so good that we don’t care about masks and WFH anymore. Bit bull in my opinion.”

The TUC has echoed concern over the suddenness of work from home ending, yesterday calling the PM’s policy change “rushed and half-baked.”

The union expressed the most concern for people with young children, saying it was important employers properly consulted to give such workers time to make childcare arrangements.

'Trust the judgement of the British people'

Yesterday in the Commons, the PM said face coverings won’t be required in classrooms from today and while their use in crowded spaces was still ‘suggested,’ they are not mandatory from next Thursday, including on public transport.

Mr Johnson said: “We will trust the judgement of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.”

Also from next Thursday, mandatory certification in England will end too, although “organisations can…[still] choose to use the NHS covid-pass voluntarily.”

Self-isolation for people with covid has already been reduced to five days (assuming two negative tests), and when the regulations expire on March 24th, “I very much expect not to renew them,” the PM said, later seeming to indicate they may even be removed before then.

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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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