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Boris Johnson says he is 'sure employers will agree' if staff cannot return to work because of childcare commitments

Boris Johnson urged employers to be understanding

3 min read

Boris Johnson has said he is "sure employers will agree" if staff told to leave lockdown to come back to work are unable to do so because of childcare.

The Prime Minister said it was "only fair" for firms to see childcare "as an obvious barrier" after the ministers said workers from sectors such as manufacturing, construction, food production and scientific research should restart from Wednesday.

The call formed part of the newly announced 'roadmap' for reopening the economy, but there are concerns that employees not classified as key workers will be unable to send their children back to school.

Meanwhile, the government's plan for a phased reopening of schools is not set to begin until 1 June at the earliest, with only small groups of pupils eligible to return in the early stages.

But, facing a question from a member of the public during the daily Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said he hoped employers would accept that childcare commitments might prevent some staff coming in.

"Obviously, if people don’t have access to childcare and they've got a child who isn’t back in school for one reason or another, yet can’t get them back until 1 June or, even then, they don’t fall into the years we're getting back immediately, then I think it’s only fair to regard as an obvious barrier to their ability to go back to work," he said.

"And I’m sure that employers will agree with that. So stay at home if you can but go to work now if you have no alternative."

His comments come amid criticism from Labour over the Government's message, with the party's leader Sir Keir Starmer claiming Mr Johnson had failed to offer "clear directions" to the public over how to interpret the latest measures.

But the PM insisted he did not expect a "flood" of people to return to work this week, saying the Government was instead taking "baby steps" to reopen the economy.

"I want to stress that I don’t think any of us expect that tomorrow or for the rest of this week there’s going to be a sudden big flood of people back to work," he said.

"But I think a lot of people will now start to think whether they fall into that category, whether maybe they could think about going back to work, whether it’s time to ring up their employer to check about the arrangements and so on.

"So we’re taking baby steps if you like and we think that’s the right way to do it."


Responding to the Government's plans in his own televised message, Sir Keir said: "We needed to hear that nobody would be asked to go to work or send their children to school without it being safe to do so. We needed to know that the huge problems we’ve seen with protective equipment are over, that the crisis in our care homes has finally been gripped, that everybody who needs a test can finally get one.

"Above all, we needed to know when we could see our loved ones again.

"The Prime Minister said he was setting out a road map, but if we’re to complete the journey safely a roadmap needs clear directions."

He added: "For as long as this crisis persists I’ll keep demanding answers to these questions because that’s how we get better decisions and better outcomes."

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