Guidance which advised people to work from home where possible in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been removed in Northern Ireland.
The decision follows an assessment of the current situation by the Covid-19 taskforce.
In a statement an Executive Office (TEO) spokesperson said the decision “balances health, economic and social considerations and takes on board 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 signalled they are content with the change in the guidance.
The TEO spokesperson said: “While the threat from Covid-19 has certainly not disappeared, it has receded.
“The guidance ‘work from home where possible’ position is therefore not proportionate at this point.
“As with the removal of other Covid-19 measures, this should not be interpreted as meaning there is no risk from Covid or that the pandemic is over.
Where staff are attending or returning to workplaces, employers should carefully consider what practical mitigations might be put in place
“While life continues to get back to normal, we must remain careful.”
The spokesperson added: “Employers may still wish to consider how remote or flexible working could be used effectively to meet organisational need, for instance through adopting a hybrid working approach.
“Where staff are attending or returning to workplaces, employers should carefully consider what practical mitigations might be put in place.
“This update reflects the evolution of our response to the pandemic.
“Our vaccination programme and the use of innovative Covid-19 treatments means the risk of serious illness has been significantly reduced.
“By taking sensible precautions in our everyday lives, we can continue on the route back to normality.”
Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said the decision would bring Northern Ireland into line with other jurisdictions.
He said: “This is good news and something which Belfast Chamber has encouraged ministers to do for some time.
“Whilst other jurisdictions had updated their work from home guidance months ago, Northern Ireland had lagged behind so this is long overdue but no less welcome.
“Belfast Chamber members have invested heavily in making their offices safe places to work and we are pleased to see that fact reflected in this common sense decision.”
“This step in the right direction will allow many businesses to introduce new models of working and will also provide a much needed boost for businesses in places like Belfast city centre as staff return to offices on a more regular basis.”