Public service employers have been advised that staff should return to home working unless it is necessary for them to attend the workplace in person. This comes on foot of revised official economy-wide public health advice issued by the Government in the middle of November, before the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), which issued the new guidelines to public service employers on 26th November, says its latest stance “marks a return to the situation as it applied prior to the phased return to the workplace, which started on 20th September.”
Fórsa met DPER prior to the publication of the new guidelines. The union said that, while most employers were implementing the return to home-working where possible, the approach was not being followed consistently across the civil and public service.
The union’s general secretary, Kevin Callinan, subsequently wrote to public reform minister Michael McGrath to outline Fórsa’s concern over the lack of consistency in the application of the guidance.
“The union’s officials and representatives have observed a number of instances where employers are insisting that staff attend workplaces to perform work that can be effectively performed remotely. This includes, but is not confined to, work that had been performed remotely prior to 20th September and during earlier stages of the pandemic,” he wrote.
The revised DPER guidelines say that an agreed Covid workplace safety protocol must be observed where workplace attendance is necessary. It adds that attendance at work premises “should be for specific business purposes appropriate to each sector and taking into account the updated guidance regarding working from home.”
“How this will work in practice is dependent on the individual circumstances of each workplace/premises, having regard to issues such as physical distancing and other public health measures,” it says.
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 representative.
Economy-wide guidance from the Labour-Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) was updated in November to take account revised public health advice. The LEEF is the main national forum for unions, employers and Government to discuss and agree on workplace and other issues.
Read the DPER advice HERE.
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