Covid-19: Advice to Fórsa members
by Bernard Harbor

Fórsa members are advised follow the HSE advice on protecting yourself and others from the coronavirus.



Reporting for work


The union advises members to report for work as normal unless:


  • You have been told not to attend work by your manager or HR department
  • Remote working arrangements have been put in place, and you have been told to work at home by your manager or HR department
  • You have a medical reason for not attending work
  • You are self-isolating on medical or HSE advice.


If you are in vulnerable group (ie, if you are over 60 or have a long-term medical condition like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure), you should phone your doctor for advice before attending work. Please don’t attend the doctor’s surgery unless specifically advised to do so.


The HSE has also advised pregnant women to take extra care. So, if you are pregnant, you might also want to phone your doctor for advice before attending work.



Fórsa policy on Covid-19 and the workplace


The union’s elected national officers met last Friday (13th March) and agreed the following:


“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.”


Members are strongly advised to co-operate with management in its efforts to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus, protect the health and safety of citizens and workers, and maintain essential services – including when this means doing different things, in different ways, at different times.


Guidance issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last Thursday (12th March) said staff redeployment across the civil and public services could be required to ensure the maintenance of essential services. It also called for the reassignment of staff within organisations to prioritise the most critical services.


The union is in constant liaison with management to ensure that appropriate protective and containment measures are in place.


If you have genuine concerns about the health and safety of yourself or others, or if you genuinely believe that collective agreements are being seriously breached without union consultation, you should contact the union HERE.



Volunteering for urgent tasks


The union expects management in various parts of the civil and public service to seek volunteers for redeployment to the HSE to undertake urgent work such as contact-tracing and staffing helplines. The civil service is also likely to seek redeployments into the Department of Employment and Social Protection to deal with expected increase in workloads there. Fórsa strongly urges members to volunteer if they are able to do so, and to co-operatewith requirements arising from such redeployments.



Protections for public servants who contract the virus or self-isolate


Civil and public servants who contract the Covid-19 virus, or who are advised to self-isolate by a medical practitioner, will receive basic pay including fixed allowances from day one. Coronavirus-related sick leave will not be counted as part of the employee’s sick leave record, so long as they have medical or HSE confirmation of the need to self-isolate.



Childcare difficulties


Guidance issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last Thursday (12th March) called on managers and employees to be flexible in circumstances where staff have to mind children on foot of school or crèche closures. In this regard, it recommends measures like home working, flexible shifts, or longer opening hours. It advises staff who experience coronavirus-related childcare difficulties to stay in regular contact with their managers.



Fórsa is here to support you


Fórsa is here to protect you if you have problems arising from the coronavirus or other workplace issues. The best way to contact the union at this time is HERE.


We will deal with queries as quickly as we can but, needless to say, the union will prioritise cases where members’ jobs and incomes are at immediate risk – as well as any serious health and safety issues that may arise.



Union business


Fórsa has cancelled all face-to-face meetings for the time being. The union is redeploying its staff to prioritise engagement with management on proposals arising from the Covid-19 public health crisis, and to provide rapid and efficient responses to members’ queries and concerns.


Wherever possible, Fórsa staff have been equipped to work remotely. Therefore, members should NOT attend Fórsa offices at this time. If you have a query or concern, the best way to raise it is to contact the union HERE.

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