Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic

Rose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
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176. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to ensure that all employers are adhering to public health advice to allow employees to work from home unless it is absolutely necessary particularly in relation to staff with underlying health conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43784/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Living with COVID-19 Plan recognises the need for an overall incremental approach which take account of the societal and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the varying responses required.

The Living with Covid-19 Plan sets out how businesses should operate at five different levels. The Country is, at present, at Level 3 and within Level 3 people should work from home unless it is absolutely necessary to attend in person.

While an employer is responsible, in the first instance, for determining what work can be carried out at home, employers must bear in mind that the overarching public health advice is that, where possible, employees should continue to work remotely. Employers should also give due consideration, in particular, to vulnerable workers in this context.

In instances where employees have returned to the physical workplace the employer must ensure that the public health measures set out in the 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 all business sectors, the steps that must be taken on an ongoing basis to mitigate against the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. In relation to workers who are in high-risk categories, but who cannot work from home, the Protocol states that employers must make sure that such workers are supported to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from others at the workplace.

Any worker with concerns about health and safety standards at their own place of work can contact the Health and Safety Authority’s Workplace Contact Unit (WCU) for detailed advice including advice on compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. The WCU can be contacted by phone at Lo-call 1890289389 (landline) or (01) 6147000 or by email at wcu@hsa.ie.

Employers and workers should seek to resolve any matters relating to remote working at a local level through mutual dialogue and engagement. Where this is not possible a dispute may be referred to the State's workplace relations services for mediation or conciliation. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is providing services on both a face to face and virtual basis. Advice can be obtained from the Information & Customer Service of the WRC at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 or 059 9178990 or from its website www.wrc.ie.

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