News that public servants will soon be returning to their offices will come as a huge relief to many businesses, according to the Canberra Business Chamber.
CEO Graham Catt said seeing the APS taking the lead on this was fantastic news.
Public Service agencies were told today (29 September) to get their employees back in the office after six months of working from home because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Australian Public Service Commission issued a circular today to agency heads saying that where there is limited or no community transmission of COVID-19, employees should return to their usual workplaces, where it is safe to do so.
Mr Catt said it would be a simple and very powerful way to help local businesses.
”We know that particularly in these large office buildings when public servants are back in the office their daily spending is a really important boost for those businesses that rely on it – like local cafes, retail stores and 7-11s, but also transport providers and many other businesses that are part of that ecosystem,” he said.
”For many businesses, particularly in hospitality, cafes on the ground floors of those office buildings are really at the point of despair and wondering just how long they can keep going without trade.”
Mr Catt said that with JobKeeper winding back, public servants going back to work was probably going to be the difference between survival and closure for some of those businesses.
”From what we’re hearing, they wouldn’t have much choice but to let people go,” he said.
Mr Catt said the move would be felt not just in the city but across Canberra.
”Getting people back to work is all part of getting a bit of a hum back in the economy generally,” he said.
The circular says the decision will be up to agency heads who should act on government, public health and other relevant advice, and ensure business continuity and a safe transition back to the workplace.
It says a single top-down approach is not practical and that back-to-office arrangements should be made on an agency-by-agency basis.
With case numbers low in most communities, all employees, even those at higher risk of more severe illness, may be able to return to usual workplaces, it says.
The ACT has not had an active COVID-19 case since 9 July.
The circular says that agencies should assess their workplaces to ensure they are COVID-safe and if there are any future, localised outbreaks, arrange for affected employees to work from home.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the APS taking the lead, saying it was time to get people back in their office where it is safe to do so.
”For the public service to be back in their offices buying their lunch at the local cafe and doing all of those things will support those CBD economies, and it’s a matter that I’ll continue to pursue,” he said.
He said the state premiers and ministers also want to see their own CBDs revitalised.
”It’s important that we get people back into their offices in a safe way. I think people have learned an enormous amount over the last six months, about how to do that in a COVID-safe way, and it’s time to get our CBDs humming again.”