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People will again be encouraged to go back to the workplace in a government ad campaign starting next week.

Employers will be asked to reassure staff it is safe to return by highlighting measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Business leaders have warned of damage being done to city centres as people stay away from offices.

And Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said some things were “impossible” to do remotely.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he cared more about how employees performed than where they were working.

Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still advising people to work from home if possible.

The campaign, which will launch as most schools in England and Wales reopen, will predominantly be promoted through regional media, BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said.

Meanwhile, nine in 10 UK employees who have worked from home during lockdown would like to continue in some form, according to a survey.

The research by academics at Cardiff and Southampton universities – which involved thousands of people between April and June – suggests the majority of people working from home are as productive, if not more.

Whitehall sources insist the campaign will not suggest those who continue to work from home are at any greater risk of losing their jobs.

Labour’s shadow business minister, Lucy Powell, said no one should be forced “to choose between their health and their job” and the government should “categorically rule out” any campaign suggesting people could be out of a job if they refused to return to the office.

And Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she does not want to see people “intimidated” into returning to workplaces before it is safe.

She said her government had been holding talks with business leaders about the possibility of a phased return to office working but it was still too soon for people to go back to the office as normal without the virus spreading.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: “The prime minister needs a credible plan to help more people travel and work safely, not a scare campaign.”

The messaging comes as head teachers say they are ready to welcome young people back to school in England and Wales full-time next week, which should make a return to the workplace more feasible for many parents.

‘Ghost towns’

The employers’ organisation the CBI has warned city centres could become “ghost towns” if the prime minister does not do more to encourage staff back, with businesses relying on passing trade from office workers.

Some prominent Conservative MPs share these concerns and have urged ministers to deliver a clear and consistent message that it is safe to return.

But Mr Hancock said getting staff back to work was a “matter for employers” and, when asked about the Department for Health, that his main concern was how employees performed.

“Some of them have been working from home, some come in sometimes, some are in full-time – and what matters to me is that they deliver and, frankly, they’ve been delivering at an unbelievable rate,” the health secretary told Times Radio.

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