Workers in the public service and elsewhere have been urged by the Government to resume remote working unless it’s necessary for them to attend the workplace in person. The new guidance, which comes on foot of NPHET Covid-19 advice, effectively means an end – for now – of the ‘phased return to the workplace,’ which started on 20th September.
As this bulletin was being finalised, Fórsa was engaged with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) on specific guidance for civil and public servants. This is expected to confirm that staff should not be expected to attend the workplace unless their presence is essential.
The guidance will also stress that the union-negotiated ‘work safety protocol’ must be followed in situations where workers are needed in the workplace.
Fórsa has advised its members to contact the lead worker safety representative in their workplace if they have concerns over Covid safety measures. If this isn’t possible, staff are advised to contact their union rep.
Economy-wide guidance from the Labour-Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) has been updated to take account the latest public health advice. The LEEF is the main national forum for unions, employers and Government to discuss and agree on workplace and other issues.
New HSE guidance also requires people who self-refer for a PCR test to self-isolate if they have Covid symptoms. The revised public service guidance is expected to say that ‘special leave with pay’ should apply when an employee has had a positive PCR test, or is required to self-isolate while displaying Covid symptoms.
Regardless of the nature of work, public service employers are to facilitate home working in situations where a person is required to restrict their movements as a result of close contact with a diagnosed Covid case. But special leave with pay will not be available in these cases as it only applies if a worker is ill.
Meanwhile, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) gave full support to the new advice to work from home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go to the workplace. Its general secretary, Patricia King, also called for the maintenance of the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) and an urgent review of the adequacy of supports for businesses in the night life industry.
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