Dominic Raab has sad people continuing to work from home is “damaging to the economy”.
In an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, the foreign secretary said “we need to get people back to work”.
“We are all going to do a bit more remote working in the future,” he said. “But it does make a difference.
“The economy needs to have people back at work. Unless there is a good health reason why it shouldn’t happen, or unless the employer can’t put place the Covid secure workplace we all need.”
Asked what would happen if workers do not go back to their offices, he said: “It’s damaging to the economy.”
Ministers fear huge job losses in town and city centre shops and cafes if workers do not return to their pre-lockdown commuter patterns.
A study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released on Friday revealed there has been an increase in people travelling to work in the last two months.
According to the data, 57% of working adults reported that they had travelled to work – either exclusively or in combination with working from home – in the past seven days, while 20% had worked solely from home.
The findings show an increase from the results of an ONS survey in the last week of June when 49% of working adults said they had travelled in to work, and 29% said they had worked exclusively at home.
Raab’s comments came as Labour demanded industry-damaging quarantines should be reviewed and more extensive testing rolled out at airports to reduce travellers’ self-isolation periods.
In a letter to home secretary Priti Patel, the opposition said the “dire warnings” from the travel sector about the use of “chaotic” blanket self-isolation advice meant it was time to review the methods being used to prevent the spread of Covid-19 from those returning to the UK from abroad.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said a “robust testing regime in airports” could minimise the need for those returning from countries with high coronavirus prevalence to quarantine for two weeks.
He also said “serious concerns” about the low-level of monitoring of incoming travellers, claiming “less than a third of passenger locator forms are checked”, were another reason why a review was required.
There has been confusion across the UK in recent days after Scotland and Wales reintroduced quarantine measures for those returning from Portugal but England and Northern Ireland did not.
Airlines have also criticised the use of quarantine measures as they face large job cuts due to Covid-inspired lockdowns around the globe reducing travellers numbers.
Virgin Atlantic announced on Friday it plans to axe another 1,150 jobs after completing a £1.2 billion rescue deal.