New arrangements for a public service-wide mobilisation to tackle the Covid-19 virus and maintain essential public services were put in place on Wednesday (18th March 2020).
The move allows the temporary transfer of civil and public servants to critical roles for up to three months, with a possible extension if required.
Right now, the most urgent need for temporary assignments is in the HSE and social welfare.
The new arrangements were published in a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) circular the day after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlined the gravity of the crisis in a TV address.
They envisage that local human resource (HR) departments across the civil and public service will identify staff who could be released for temporary transfers.
In discussions between Fórsa and DPER, the union sought and received assurances that a facility for staff to volunteer to take on critical roles will be put in place. The union raised this on foot of a large number of queries from members who want to volunteer.
The measures also confirm that HSE-recommended social distancing will be observed in work settings, and that transferred staff will receive necessary training and upskilling.
The new measures also guarantee that staff who take on temporary roles will continue to be employed, and paid by, their existing employer. And they will return to their existing employer and role once the temporary transfer is over.
DEPR says transferred staff may be able to continue to work from their present location, and there is also potential for remote working where this is practical.
Throughout the crisis, Fórsa has strongly urged members to volunteer for temporary critical assignments if they are able to do so – and to co-operate with requirements arising from such redeployments.
The union’s elected national officers agreed the following policy statement last week:
“Fórsa and its members across the civil, public, private, voluntary and semi-state sectors are committed to co-operating fully with emergency measures necessary to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus, protect the health and safety of citizens and workers, and maintain essential services during this unprecedented public health emergency.
“The union will continue to advise its members to co-operate with all necessary measures, including some that might not be acceptable in normal times, so long as employers consult with the appropriate unions, respect existing collective agreements, and reach agreement with the union if they feel it necessary to waive aspects of collective agreements in the short-term.”
Under the new arrangements, staff identified as available for potential temporary transfer will receive a link to an online questionnaire for submission to a dedicated Public Appointments Service (PAS) portal. The PAS will process temporary assignments in consultation with the relevant local HR departments – with assignments starting as soon as possible.
Fórsa officials will be available to deal with any problems that may arise for members. In recent days, the union has redeployed its staff to prioritise engagement with management on proposals arising from the public health crisis, and to provide rapid and efficient responses to members’ concerns.
A related DPER FAQ says: “Covid-19 is the most significant crisis faced by our country in living memory. Our primary focus in the civil and public service is to support the health and wellbeing of all our citizens.
“To achieve this, and to keep delivering the critical services to society, especially for the most vulnerable and at-risk, we need to come together and work as a unified public service.”
Read the DPER circular HERE.
Read the DPER FAQ document HERE.
Contact Fórsa HERE.