A guidance note on returning safely to the workplace from 20th September last has now been published by the LEEF Consultative Group. The Guidance Note can be found here.
As per the Government’s plan announced on 31st August last, there are three key timeframes for employers.
- Current situation
- 20th September onwards
- 22nd October onwards
The Current situation will remain as current public health guidance is that workers should work from home unless necessary to attend in person.
20th September onwards
Attendance at the workplace for specific business requirements, for those still working from home, may commence on a phased and staggered basis.
This is not defined and the Guidance Note does set out that the interpretation will depend on the specific circumstances of each workplace. This means that the return to workplaces must take place in a cautious and careful manner, taking into account appropriate attendance levels; mindful of public health guidance as reflected in the Work Safely Protocol and associated checklist(s); the use of staggered arrangements, such as non-fulltime attendance and flexible working hours, and that attendance initially is for specific business requirements.
This means that from the 21st September, in accordance with the provisions set out in The Work Safely Protocol, which can be accessed here – it is a matter for each employer to assess what is necessary and what is safe in terms of a phased return.
This Protocol is also due to be updated over the coming weeks.
The Guidance Note highlights that awareness and care will still be required as the risks posed by COVID-19 remain.
Physical distancing and face masks will remain in place during this second phase along with the requirement for appropriate ventilation in workplaces.
The Guidance Note also emphasises the importance of the Lead Worker Representative(s) in each workplace and notes that, as workers return to workplaces, the role of the Lead Worker Representative is particularly important.
The Guidance Note also provides that, if concerns continue about the implementation of the Work Safely Protocol by any employer, these may be raised with the Workplace Contact Unit (“WCU”) of the Health and Safety Authority (www.hsa.ie). The HSA will review all contacts received by the WCU in relation to the Work Safely Protocol and will follow-up as appropriate.
41,000 inspections have so far taken place in workplaces to monitor compliance with the Work Safely Protocol.
22nd October onwards
At this stage, the requirement to work from home will be removed, allowing a return to physical attendance in workplaces on a phased and careful basis appropriate to each sector.. Ahead of this, further engagement will take place between Government, trade unions and employer representatives, in relation to guidance required for employers and workers following this date, taking account of latest public health guidance.
This updated Guidance Note and the new HSA checklist are important resources for employers at this significant stage as the return to the workplace is planned. It is vitally important that employers continue to work in conjunction with their health and safety advisors to ensure that they are in full compliance with the requirements of the Work Safely Protocol and any updates to that protocol over the coming weeks and months.