Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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78. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment his views on establishing a dedicated service for employees to report employers anonymously that are unnecessarily requiring them to attend work physically or operate against Covid-19 guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30865/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Living with COVID-19 Plan is the Government’s roadmap for living with the next phase of the pandemic. It has three broad strands which are, Staying Healthy, Keeping our Businesses Strong and Keeping our Communities Resilient. The Plan sets a Restrictive Measures Framework composed of five levels which recognises the need for an incremental approach which takes account of the societal and economic impacts of the response to infection outbreaks.

The application of public health advice measures to suppress the transmission of COVID-19 is intended to minimise the risks to public health while striking the right balance in prioritising other activities and essential services.

The Living with Covid-19 plan sets out how businesses should operate at each level of the Restrictive Measures Framework. The current advice under level 3 is that employees should work from home unless it is absolutely necessary to attend in person. It is essential that employers do everything possible to ensure that this is the case.

In instances where employees have returned to the physical workplace the employer must ensure that the public health measures set out in the Return to Work Safely Protocol are being fully adhered to. The Protocol operates in parallel with existing workplace health and safety statutory requirements and sets out in very clear terms for employers and employees, in all business sectors, the steps that they must take on an ongoing basis to mitigate against the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The Protocol states that, “office work should continue to be carried out at home, where practicable and non-essential work. The employer should develop and consult on any working from home policy in conjunction with workers and/or Trade Unions.

The Workplace Contact Unit of the HSA can be contacted in confidence by anyone with concerns regarding workplace health and safety matters including matters relating to the Return to Work Safely Protocol by phone (1890 289 389) or email (wcu@hsa.ie) and the matter will receive the appropriate attention.

Any industrial relations dispute arising, whether of a collective or individual nature, may be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission. In the context of the former, either party (workers or employer) may refer the issues in dispute for conciliation with a view to reaching a mutually agreeable resolution with the assistance of an Industrial Relations Officer.

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