The Cabinet will meet next Tuesday (19th October) to finalise the Government’s approach to the proposed removal of Covid-related public health restrictions, originally planned for next Friday (22nd October).
At the end of August, the Government announced its intention to sweep away virtually all restrictions from 22nd October. It said this would include waiving the requirement for social distancing in a move expected to accelerate the return to workplaces for staff who have been working fully or partly remotely.
But senior Government sources have this week expressed some doubt over the extent of the relaxation in restrictions, on foot of expert warnings over escalating Covid infections and risks to the health system. Asked if he could confirm that the next phase of reopening would proceed, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “I can’t guarantee that right now.”
Senior Fórsa and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) officials are scheduled to meet next Friday to discuss the impact of any changes on public service staff. Following consultation with the union, any changes to the official position are expected to be expressed through a revision to an existing ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQ) document for public service managers.
The FAQs have been regularly amended throughout the pandemic as official health advice developed.
Meanwhile, Fórsa remains in talks about long-term remote or ‘blended’ working arrangements in the public service.
The union has consistently argued that the return to workplaces must be safe, and should build on the positive pandemic experience of remote working, which has largely sustained or increased productivity while bringing wider benefits to employers, workers and society.
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