Guidelines that advised people to work from home where possible in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have been scrapped in Northern Ireland.
The decision follows an assessment of the current situation by the Covid-19 task force.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Executive Office (TEO) said the decision “balances health, economic and social considerations and takes into account the latest medical and scientific advice”.
Northern Ireland is currently without a functioning executive due to the DUP’s protest against the Northern Ireland protocol, but ministers remain in place and they have signaled they are happy with the change in the guidelines.
The TEO spokesman said: “While the threat of Covid-19 has certainly not disappeared, it has receded.
“The orientation position “work from home if possible” is therefore not proportionate at this stage.
“As with the removal of other Covid-19 measures, this should not be interpreted to mean that there is no risk of Covid or that the pandemic is over.
“As life continues to return to normal, we must remain cautious.”
The spokesperson added: “Employers may still wish to consider how remote or flexible working could be used effectively to meet organizational needs, for example by adopting a hybrid working approach.
“When staff show up or return to workplaces, employers should carefully consider what practical mitigation measures could be put in place.
“This update reflects the evolution of our response to the pandemic.
“Our vaccination program and the use of innovative treatments against Covid-19 means that the risk of serious illness has been significantly reduced.
“By taking reasonable precautions in our daily lives, we can continue on the path back to normality.”
Belfast House chief executive Simon Hamilton said the decision would bring Northern Ireland into line with other jurisdictions.
He said: ‘This is good news and something the Belfast House has been encouraging ministers to do for some time.
“While other jurisdictions had updated their work from home guidance months ago, Northern Ireland had fallen behind, so this is long overdue but no less welcome.
“Members of the Belfast Chamber have invested heavily in making their offices safe places to work and we are delighted to see that fact reflected in this common sense decision.”
“This step in the right direction will allow many businesses to introduce new working models and will also give a much-needed boost to businesses in places like Belfast city center as staff return to offices more regularly. .”