Hancock suggests state has less of a duty to protect people who have refused vaccine than to people not offered vaccine
Ministers considering plan to encourage some working from home to continue after 19 July
Working from home guidance could stay in place for the long-haul as part of a raft of measures being considered by the government for life after the final stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap, the Guardian has been told.
Sources confirmed a report in Politico’s Playbook today that ministers are likely not to encourage a full-scale return to the office, like they did last summer before being forced into a U-turn several months later.
Other findings in the document include that Perspex screens are ineffective at sufficiently stopping transmission of the disease, and that businesses could instead be required to maintain a minimum standard of ventilation.
No 10 has said the story “doesn’t reflect latest thinking”. And Boris Johnson downplayed it, saying in the Commons this afternoon: “It means absolutely nothing to me, our objective is to go forward with the roadmap and bring back the freedoms we love.”
A government insider insisted the proposals contained in a Whitehall paper had not been signed off by ministers or presented to a senior committee – such as the Covid Operations one.
But they said each of the policies suggested were “entirely plausible” and that multiple government departments had “been talking about these things”. They added:
We’re probably not going to announce any of that stuff in the next week or two. But will you likely see some of those policies coming out in the next month or two? Probably.
Ministers are said to be split over backing an immediate return to the office on 19 July, or remaining neutral or encouraging employers to adopt a “hybrid” model of remote and in-person working.
Yesterday Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said that he thought partial working from home would become permanent for some people as restrictions were lifted.
More disruption could be looming for university students, after proposals by university managers to severely cut pension benefits were met with threats of a strike ballot by staff.
The University and College Union warned that their employers could face a strike ballot if they go ahead with large cuts in future pension payouts for current members of the University Superannuation Scheme (USS). But Universities UK, which represents most of the 300 employers enrolled in the USS, said the changes were needed to avoid steep increases in contributions from employers and staff.
The proposals between the USS trustees and UUK would significantly lower the salary threshold for a defined-benefit pension from £60,000 to £40,000 a year. The sides remain in dispute over the size of the USS’s likely deficit and how it was accounted for. The dispute has been running since 2018 and has caused national strikes that halted teaching in many places where universities were members of the scheme.
Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, said:
Members of the USS pension scheme appear to be trapped between an employer group that wants to cut pensions and a trustee that refuses to listen to scheme members or experts – all to meet a crisis in a pension scheme that doesn’t exist, based on a valuation that many have raised concerns about.
UUK needs to publish the individual employer responses to its pension proposals consultation, otherwise it will be seen as nothing more than a PR exercise readying the ground for more cuts.
For its part, UUK said: “We hope the union will work with us and suggest ways of tackling these immediate financial challenges to avoid ruinous contribution increases, and to explore longer-term changes, including a governance review, a flexible option for members and conditional indexation.”