Coronavirus: Only 5% of Belfast employees have returned to workplaces

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35% of office staff are working from home full time with the rest splitting time between home and the workplace, a survey suggests.

Only 5% of office-based staff in Belfast have returned to their workplaces full time, a survey has suggested.

Office-based staff have been advised to work from home since the start of the pandemic.

The Belfast Chamber of Commerce surveyed its members last month.

The results suggest that about 35% of office staff are working from home all the time, with the rest splitting time between home and the workplace.

Official public health advice in Northern Ireland is that people who can work from home should do so.

Additionally, UK government advice is that office workers should maintain 2m social distancing.

That means that most offices can accommodate no more than half their normal staff numbers.

‘A phased return’

Simon Hamilton, the chamber’s chief executive, suggested Stormont ministers should review their guidance.

“I have spoken with many members who have staff that want to return to the office for a whole host of reasons, whilst others who have a customer or client facing aspect to their work are keen to get back,” Mr Hamilton said.

“But they have stated clearly to me the executive’s guidance which remains at step one on their pathway to recovery.

“We would encourage the executive to move to step three on its pathway and permit a phased return to the office where this is safe and has been subject to the necessary risk assessments.”

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PA Media

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Official public health advice in Northern Ireland is that people who can work from home should do so.

Since the start of August, employers in England have had more freedom to decide how staff should work, whether at home or in the workplace.

But ministers will soon actively promote returning to the workplace in England.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that “for a lot of people, it will be the right time”.

The head of the business leaders’ organisation, the CBI, said city centres could become “ghost towns” unless more is done to encourage the return of office workers.

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