17th September 2021
Advice to employers to keep people safe largely unchanged, core public health measures remain crucial
The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, today (17 September 2021) published an updated Work Safely Protocol as thousands return to the office over the coming weeks.
The updated Work Safely Protocol reflects the most up to date Public Health advice and reinforces the public health measures that have kept workplaces safe throughout the pandemic, such as the need to maintain the requirement for physical distancing, the wearing of masks and ventilation. These measures remain critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Tánaiste said:
“Next week marks another milestone in our recovery from the pandemic, with the phased return to the office beginning and indoor activities being permitted again. This updated Work Safely Protocol reiterates guidance, based on the most up to date public health advice, to keep workers safe.
“The biggest change since the last iteration of this Protocol is the success of our vaccination programme. Over 85% of our entire population over the age of 12 is now fully vaccinated. That is incredible. It’s a testament to the Irish people for trusting the science, trusting our health care professionals and protecting each other. We are now one of the best in the world for vaccine uptake and expect to exceed 90% of people over 16 double-jabbed within days.
“Notwithstanding this success however, we still need everyone to play their part to keep Covid under control so as we reopen, we stay open and businesses have the chance to get back on their feet and workers back to work.
“I hope this guidance is useful for employers, many of whom have had an exceptionally difficult 18 months. This document will help with the practicalities of returning to the office and is in addition to other guidance that is available.
“Although the public health advice no longer recommends working from home, I hope employers are speaking to their staff to figure out what works best for them and the business. We really want to see remote working become a permanent fixture of Irish working life. The pandemic has shown us that it can be done and I hope we can learn from what worked and incorporate it post-Covid.”
As vaccination is not mandatory in Ireland, and there are no plans to make it so, employers cannot currently require staff to reveal their vaccination status. The Government is confident that the guidance set out here, in addition to the exceptionally high vaccination rate of our adult population, will keep workers safe as they return to the office.
Damien English TD, Minister for Business, Employment and Retail said:
“Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, public health measures have been in place requiring many people to work from home. Initially this happened in an ‘ad hoc’ way but thanks to the considerable flexibility and effort on the part of employers and workers, this obligatory and sudden move to mass home working has worked well. Working from home has contributed greatly to keeping people safe and has played an enormous part in reducing transmission of COVID-19 in the community.
“Employers and workers who will return to the physical workplace can be re-assured by the fact that the majority of the adult population in Ireland are now fully vaccinated. Notwithstanding these high levels of vaccination, current public health advice is that all existing COVID-19 infection prevention and control (IPC) measures should still be adhered to whether workers are vaccinated or not. Therefore, the control measures set out in the Work Safely Protocol will remain the key focus for employers, business managers and employees.
“Since May 2020, over 43,000 COVID-19 inspections around compliance with the Protocol have been carried out by a number of State Agencies. The Health and Safety Authority will remain the lead Agency in co-ordinating compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. It will continue to be supported in this role by inspectors from a range of other Government Departments and State Bodies.
“In addition to the Protocol document there is now a range of complementary material available for the workplace, including a new checklist to ensure that the correct controls are in place for those workplaces welcoming more employees back.”
The Work Safely Protocol was first published last year. It has been developed in close consultation with employers and trade unions through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF). On 7 September, a guidance note was published by the LEEF, which supports the guidance set out in the Protocol.
All workers, regardless of the sector of the economy in which they work, are covered by the provisions of the Work Safely Protocol. Since May 2020, over 43,000 COVID-19 inspections around compliance with the Protocol have been carried out by a number of State Agencies.
The Health and Safety Authority will remain the lead Agency in co-ordinating compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. The Government has made additional funding of €4m available to the Authority for its 2021 budget. It will continue to be supported in this role by inspectors from a range of other Government Departments and State Bodies.
In addition to the Protocol document there is now a range of complementary material available for the workplace, including a checklist and posters which may make it easier to communicate the measures advised (Work Safely Resources).
NOTE FOR EDITORS
The revised Work Safely Protocol can be accessed here: Work Safely Protocol
The Work Safely Protocol is a further revision of the Return to Work Safely Protocol first published in May 2020. This revised Protocol incorporates the current Public Health advice, on the measures needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community and in workplaces as issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and the Department of Health.
The Protocol is a general guidance document applicable to all sectors. It is not designed to prohibit the introduction of further specific measures in particular sectors or workplaces. Further specific measures can be introduced as long as they enhance the measures set out in the Protocol.
It sets out the minimum measures required in every place of work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to facilitate the re-opening of workplaces following temporary closures and the ongoing safe operation of those workplaces. This revision of the Protocol reflects further new knowledge and understanding of additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces.
The main updated Public Health advice includes information on ventilation of workplaces and vaccinations to reflect new knowledge and a changing Public Health situation. A new checklist for workplaces on for the return of employee is available on the HSA website as well as a range of other guidance material. The Protocol contains links directing employers and employees to other Government Departments and Agencies offering additional detailed information.
Other sources of information include;
The Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) has issued guidance on returning safely to the workplace from 20 September
Employers and employees are encouraged to prepare for a return and to develop longer-term arrangements for blended or remote working.
Returning safely to the workplace from 20 September
COVID-19: Reframing The Challenge, Continuing Our Recovery and Reconnecting
Reframing the challenge, continuing our recovery and reconnecting
New “Return to Work Checklist” is available from the Health and Safety Authority
Work Safely Templates, Checklists and Posters
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