There is no plan to enforce English employees to wear a face mask whilst in the office according to Matt Hancock, Health Secretary.
Mr Hancock has said this will not be a requirement for office-based workers. There has been some speculation whether or not this rule will be enforced since it was announced that you must wear face masks whilst in shops from the 24/07/20.
Mr Hancock explained that face masks help to curb the spread of the virus when you have a short encounter with a stranger, whilst on BBC Breakfast this morning. However, when it comes to contact with the same person for a longer period of time social distancing and hand washing are more effective.
As Mr Hancock said:
When you’re in close proximity with somebody that you have to work closely to, if you’re there for a long time with them, then a mask doesn’t offer that protection.
The same logic applies for schools – we’re not recommending masks for schools because if you’re in a classroom with kids all day then a mask doesn’t give you protection.
The point is when you’re in interaction with people who you aren’t normally with, that’s where the mask may be particularly helpful.
We are not proposing to extend masks to offices.
This comes after companies have been left confused by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s comments that office workers should start to return to work whereas Mr Hancock has said that remote working should be legally protected.
Mr Johnson’s comment also seems to contradict the current guidelines released by the Government that employers should take necessary steps to assist their staff to work from home. Employees should only return to work if they cannot work from home.
Mr Johnson made these remarks at ‘The People’s PMQs’ on 10/07/20 where he said:
People should start to go to work now if they can. I want to see more people feeling confident to use the shops, use the restaurants and get back into work – but only if we all follow the guidance.
The Daily Mail claims that these comments were inspired by Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, witnessing the impact empty offices are having on local economies and home working negatively hurting productivity levels.
However, Mr Hancock stated last week that the right to work from home should become law. As the pandemic has shown how remote working can be successfully deployed. During a web chat with AllBright, a woman’s club he outlined that remote working should be the “new norm”.