You can work from home but you don't have to, say Norfolk employers

A woman using a laptop on a dining room table set up as a remote office to work from home. Workers t

Office workers have ben told to work from home if they can from Monday, but firms are taking a flexible approach - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Businesses will be taking a flexible line on working from home when new Covid guidelines come into force from Monday - as one of the largest trade unions said the latest advice did not go far enough when it came to protecting workers.

People are being advised to work from home where possible, as England moves into Plan B restrictions to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

But the move has been labelled as guidance by the government, rather than a legal requirement.

That means firms can still allow staff who can not or do not wish to work from home to come into the office.

And amid growing concerns about the the psychological impact of almost two years of restrictions, there are reports that employers appear to be taking a more flexible approach than was seen in the early months of 2020.

Some large national employers have indicated they will allow workers to continue to travel to the office, if they have mental health needs, or if they are unable to work from home, as well as for business-critical reasons.

Mark Robinson, regional coordinating officer for the 1.4m-strong Unite union, said: “We're deeply concerned people who do not have the luxury of being able to work from home could be putting themselves at increased risk."

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He added the government should look to reintroduce furlough for sectors such as hospitality and bring back free lateral flow tests for employers.

Tom McCabe, head of paid service at Norfolk County Council, said: “Colleagues will be working from home if they can - unless their role requires them to continue their work in the community, or if there is a specific wellbeing or personal need."

Insurer Aviva, which employs around 5,000 in Norwich, said: “For our colleagues who can’t work from home, for whatever reason, our offices will remain open, safe and secure."

Paula Strachan, communications manager with Broadland Housing, said: "If staff need to come in they can. If they want to come to the office they can do so and can do so safely."

King's Lynn-based social landlord Freebridge Community Housing, which employs 218, said:  “Our offices will remain open, so if anyone doesn’t have the right set up at home, needs to come in to do all or part of their job, or in respect of their wellbeing, they will be able to do so.”

Ben Thompson, communications manager with Diss-based technology distributor Midwich, said: "There will be some instances where working from home is not practical or possible so our office will remain open for those people."

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