21st October 2021 |
COVID-19 National Protocol for Employers and Workers.
On 31 August 2021, the Government published Reframing the Challenge: Continuing our Recovery and Reconnecting, which sets out the national approach to the gradual and careful re-opening of society from 20 September 2021. On 19 October, the Government, taking into account the latest developments with regards to the incidence and behaviour of COVID-19, and progress in the roll out of vaccinations, announced further steps in reopening, to take effect from 22 October.
A key element of Reframing the Challenge: Continuing our Recovery and Reconnecting, is the facilitation of a phased and staggered return to the workplace for specific business requirements. In line with Public Health advice, a cautious and careful return to workplaces should take into account appropriate attendance levels, with the use of staggered arrangements such as non-fulltime attendance and flexible working hours, and that attendance is for specific business requirements.
The Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) is the forum for high-level dialogue between Government, Trade Union and Employer representatives on matters related to the labour force. Given the importance of keeping workplaces safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, it established a consultative stakeholder group to oversee the implementation of the Work Safely Protocol. This consultative group prepared and published an updated Guidance note on 20 October last designed to assist employers and workers to plan for the phased return to the workplace. A technical update of the Work Safely Protocol has been prepared with some minor changes to reflect both the most up-to-date Public Health advice as well as the LEEF Guidance note.
This updated Protocol remains a robust document which is applicable to all sectors of the economy. It sets out the minimum Public Health infection prevention and control measures required in every place of work to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 following temporary closures and in the ongoing safe operation of workplaces. It is not designed to prohibit the introduction of additional measures in particular sectors or workplaces which could further enhance the measures set out in this Protocol.
It is recognised that for many, the return to the workplace will bring legitimate concerns regarding the risks from COVID-19. Collaborative and open engagement between employers and workers, based on the Work Safely Protocol, can however ensure that workplaces re-open and operate in a manner which prevents the spread of COVID-19. The updated Protocol re-iterates the importance of the vital role of the Lead Worker Representative as workers return to workplaces.
The Protocol also contains useful links directing employers and employees to a range of Government Departments and Agencies where additional and more detailed information and guidance can be sourced.
Safety, Health and Chemicals Policy Unit,
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
21 October 2021
Workplace Regulation and Economic Migration
COVID-19 Supports, Workplace Health and Safety