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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Stormont lifts ‘work from home’ guidance


Working from home guidance has been removed in NI (Joe Giddens/PA)

Working from home guidance has been removed in NI (Joe Giddens/PA)

Working from home guidance has been removed in NI (Joe Giddens/PA)

Stormont has lifted working from home guidance issued during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It follows an assessment by the Executive Covid-19 Taskforce and has been endorsed by all ministers.

Officials say the decision balances health, economic and social considerations, and takes on board the latest medical and scientific advice.

However a spokesperson for The Executive warned that whilst the threat posed by coronavirus has not disappeared, it has “receded”.

“The guidance ‘work from home where possible’ position is therefore not proportionate at this point,” they added.

“As with the removal of other Covid-19 measures, this should not be interpreted as meaning there is no risk from Covid or that the pandemic is over.

“While life continues to get back to normal, we must remain careful.

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“Employers may still wish to consider how remote or flexible working could be used effectively to meet organisational need, for instance through adopting a hybrid working approach.

“Where staff are attending or returning to workplaces, employers should carefully consider what practical mitigations might be put in place.

“This update reflects the evolution of our response to the pandemic. Our vaccination programme and the use of innovative Covid-19 treatments means the risk of serious illness has been significantly reduced.

"By taking sensible precautions in our everyday lives, we can continue on the route back to normality.”

Business owners have been calling for changes to official guidance since the beginning of the year.

Chief Executive of Retail NI, Glyn Roberts, has welcomed the move.

“Employees returning back into the office will provide a much-needed boost to high streets across Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Safely reopening offices and workplaces is not only vital to increase high street footfall, but also for our economy and returning our society to normal.

“As an organisation, we have been calling on employers from January to safely bring their employees back to the office and it is great to see Northern Ireland finally aligning with other parts of the UK with its return-to-workplace message.

“Over the coming weeks and months, we hope to see a more full-scale approach from other Northern Irish businesses in returning employees to the workplace.”

However the director of CBI Northern Ireland acknowledged hybrid working is here to stay for many firms.

Angela McGowan insisted it’s up to companies to work with employees to maximise the benefits of a balanced approach.

“We should recognise however that for some workplaces, a hybrid approach won’t be possible or desirable,” she added.

“There are also many clear benefits to being in a physical workspace, such as collaboration, on-the-job learning and reducing the negative impact of isolation on mental wellbeing.”

Ms McGowan said the extended work-from-home guidance here has had “a significant downside” for city centre trade – especially in the hospitality and retail sectors.

“High streets work best with a vibrant work population and the latest easing of work-from-home guidance will hopefully improve the vacancy problem for cities and towns across Northern Ireland,” she said.

“With many firms already experiencing diminished demand, the prospect of an upturn in footfall will provide encouragement as they look to trade their way to recovery.”

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