Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, today published a revised Work Safely Protocol, which has been reviewed by employers and employee representative groups following the most recent public health advice received by Government.
The core public health measures that have kept workplaces safe throughout the pandemic, such as the need to maintain the requirement for physical distancing, the wearing of masks and ventilation remain unchanged. These measures remain critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Tánaiste said:
“Employers and employee representatives have had an opportunity to review the Work Safely Protocol, to make sure the guidance contained therein is fit for purpose given the latest public health advice. It reiterates the importance of the basic measures we are all familiar with, making sure indoor spaces are well ventilated, the importance of acting fast, self-isolating and getting tested if you’re experiencing symptoms, social distancing and mask wearing when appropriate. It also emphasises the role of the Lead Worker Representative, appointed to work with the employer to keep everyone safe.
“I know some may be nervous about returning to the office. We are taking a very cautious, phased approach. This Protocol will help make sure employers and their staff have the guidance to protect against the virus and keep places of work safe.”
In line with public health advice, the return to physical attendance in workplaces should continue to take place on a phased and cautious basis appropriate to each sector and for specific business requirements. A cautious and careful return to workplaces should take into account appropriate attendance levels, with the use of staggered arrangements such as non full-time attendance and flexible working hours, and that attendance is for specific business requirements.
The Work Safely Protocol was first published last year. It has been developed in close consultation with employers and trade unions through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF).
On 20 October 2021, a guidance note was published by the LEEF, which supports the guidance set out in the Protocol.
All workers, regardless of the sector of the economy in which they work, are covered by the provisions of the Work Safely Protocol. Since May 2020, over 45,000 COVID-19 inspections around compliance with the Protocol have been carried out by a number of State Agencies.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will remain the lead Agency in coordinating compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. The government has made additional funding of over €1.7m available to the Authority for its 2022 budget. It will continue to be supported in this role by inspectors from a range of other government departments and State bodies.
In addition to the Protocol document there is now a range of complementary material available for the workplace including a checklist and posters which may make it easier to communicate the measures advised.