People in England are no longer being asked to work from home. Instead, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is recommending a "gradual return to work".

However, in the rest of the UK, people are still being advised to keep working at home where possible.

Employers in England were able to start planning for staff who have been able to work from home during the pandemic to return to the workplace after Covid restrictions were lifted on 19 July.

The government wants to help companies that have struggled during the lockdown, such as those in city centers that rely on office staff.

It's also keen to cut the cost of paying furloughed staff by encouraging businesses to reopen.

Most of the Covid restrictions in Scotland were lifted on 9 August as the country moved beyond the level zero rules which had been in place since 19 July.

Physical distancing rules and the limits on gatherings have been removed, and all venues are allowed to reopen.

However, the Scottish government is continuing to advise people to work from home where possible as part of a "gradual approach" to returning to offices.

Most Covid restrictions in Wales were lifted on 7 August. Limits on meeting others have been removed, and all businesses can reopen.

However, individual businesses - including offices and places open to the public such as pubs and restaurants - must carry out Covid risk assessments, and minimize the risk of coronavirus exposure to staff or customers, or face enforcement action.

The Welsh government is also still advising that people should continue to work from home wherever possible.

Northern Ireland's guidance to work from home where possible remains in place for now.

You can ask, but your employer doesn't have to agree.

However, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) - which represents HR professionals - says there could be much greater freedom and flexibility in how, when, and where people work in the future.

"People generally want a mix of workplace and home working, and the possibility of more choice in their working routines, meaning hybrid working can provide an effective balance for many workers."

Homeworker in a garden - aerial imageIMAGE SOURCEGETTY IMAGES

The CIPD adds that the lifting of Covid restrictions "shouldn't signal a mass return to workplaces," and "it should be down to individual organizations, consulting with their people, to agree on working arrangements".

Despite the removal of Covid restrictions in England, businesses still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business.

The government's Working Safely guidance still recommends that employers carry out health-and-safety risk assessments, and take reasonable steps to minimize the risks identified.

Some businesses may choose to keep some of the measures they previously had in place, such as:

  • Minimizing unnecessary visitors
  • Ensuring social distancing
  • Frequent cleaning
  • Extra handwashing facilities
  • One-way systems to minimize contact
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face)
  • Staggering start/end times

The legal requirement to wear a face-covering in England has ended. But government guidance says it "expects and recommends" the continued wearing of masks in crowded areas such as public transport.

Masks remain compulsory on public transport and in certain other circumstances in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Cleaning a keyboardIMAGE SOURCEGETTY IMAGES

Regular lateral flow testing for Covid is already widespread in many sectors, and anyone in England or Scotland can also order tests directly.

There's more detailed guidance for specific industries including construction, hospitality, and manufacturing.

Similar advice is available for employers in ScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland.

If employees feel unsafe, they can contact their local authority, Citizens Advice, or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE has carried more than 200,000 inspections to check companies are following Covid rules and can force firms to take action if not.

The CIPD says that employers should continue to ensure they have the necessary measures in place to give confidence to workers that their workplace is safe.

"This can include changes to desk spaces, shift patterns to help workers avoid busy times on public transport, and use of one-way systems to reduce staff contact while the risk of infection remains," it says.

Much of the risk depends on how crowded it is, and your distance from other people.

Wearing a mask helps, as does keeping windows open, and avoiding peak journey times where possible.

Commuters on the Tube wearing a face coveringIMAGE SOURCEGETTY IMAGES

Previous advice that millions of "clinically extremely vulnerable" people should shield, has now ended.

Many continue to work from home, but if your job cannot be done remotely, your employer can ask you to return to the workplace.

However, they still have a responsibility to keep you safe, so you should raise any specific concerns you have about going back.

In addition, if you are disabled, your employer has an extra responsibility to make and pay for "reasonable adjustments".