Northern Ireland news

Stormont urged to jump to 'step three' of recovery plan as just 5% of workers back in offices

Belfast city centre's streets have been much quieter due to coronavirus restrictions. Picture by Mark Marlow

BUSINESS owners are calling on the Stormont executive to jump from step one to step three of its `pathway to recovery' after research showed just five per cent of office staff have returned full time to Belfast.

The Belfast Chamber of Commerce survey found that more than a third are working entirely from home, with the rest dividing their time between home and the office.

Stormont's public health advice is that people who can work from home should continue to do so, while the UK government states that office workers should maintain 2m social distancing.

This leaves most offices only able to accommodate a fraction of their normal workforce.

Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said it would like the Executive to move to step three on its pathway to recovery and "permit a phased return to the office where this is safe and has been subject to the necessary risk assessments".

He said many members "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".

Ministers in Britain have begun actively promoting a return to the workplace, with the head of business leaders' organisation, the CBI, warning city centres could become "ghost towns" unless workers are encouraged to return.

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Northern Ireland news