Covid-19: Taskforce needed to get people back to workplaces, say NI retailers

The Stormont Executive should put together a taskforce to try and encourage workers to give up remote working, a group representing retailers has said.

By Niall Deeney
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 8:01 pm
Glyn Roberts of Retail NI
Glyn Roberts of Retail NI

Retail NI chief executiev Glyn Roberts has said Northern Ireland is lagging behind other parts of the UK, where the government is no longer encouraging businesses to facilitate remote working.

“Northern Ireland needs to catch up with other parts of the UK with its return-to-workplace message,” he said.

“Safely reopening offices is not just important for boosting footfall for our high streets, but also for our economy and returning our society to as near as normal.”

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He continued: “Retail NI want to see the Executive establish a working group to produce a clear and co-ordinated plan for the safe and timely return of public and private sector staff to their offices and workplaces.

“We envisage this group to include key public, private, retail, hospitality, and trade union representatives.

“Health and safety, risk assessments and ventilation will be key issues for these employers to resolve in their workplaces as staff return. This will be a significant challenge and will require extensive planning.

“We fully understand that hybrid working is likely to be a significant feature of the future of the office and needs to be factored in as we begin to repurpose and rethink our high streets.”

The guidance on working from home in Northern Ireland is that employers are encouraged to facilitate it where possible, but there is no legal requirement to do so.

From noon today, offices will no longer be required to take reasonable measures for 2m social distancing, but guidance remains in place that risk assessments should be carried out.

In England, however, the government is no longer advising workers to work from home.