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New workplace guidance following easing of Covid restrictions

New guidance for workplaces has been published to reflect the recent relaxation of most public health measures.

The Transitional Protocol eases many requirements on businesses but says good practices should be maintained.

It is ten days since the Government announced the relaxation of most public health measures, and following engagement with business and unions it has published its latest guidance for workplaces with the requirement to work from home now gone.

So too is the need to maintain two metres social distance, to operate pods of six, or to collect contact details of people on a premises.

The wearing of face masks now only applies to certain settings such as healthcare, transport, retail and public offices and by those serving food and drink.

But it says wearing face masks is still good practice especially for those sharing work vehicles.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said the document was designed to help, not to complicate.

It comes as the Health Protection Surveillance Centre has today been notified of an additional 3,872 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19.

There were 5,091 PCR-confirmed cases on Saturday and 4,400 on Sunday.

On Friday 28 January, 4,057 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal, while 3,893 people registered a positive test on Saturday, and 4,759 positive antigen tests were registered on Sunday.

As of 8 o’clock this morning there were 692 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospital, 75 of whom were in ICU.

Employers have been asked to maintain good infection control practices, keep a Covid-19 response plan in place and take into account the needs of high risk workers.

The guidance says specific sectors can introduce their own measures and that it remains crucial that anyone with symptoms isolates and tests.

It also says employers should start to develop or finalise their long-term plans for blended and remote work.

Separately, Head of Communications with Fórsa Bernard Harbor said that new workplace measures remove the compulsory nature of most of the Covid restrictions in the workplace.

Mr Harbor said most employers are taking a cautious approach but workers do have genuine work concerns about these new practices and employers will need to be sensitive to their concerns.

He pointed out that employees have worked out new work/life balances around issues such as childcare, elder care and transport over the past two years and employers must be cognisant of this.

Mr Harbor said the biggest concern is that the benefits of remote working might be lost.

Remote working was an enforced experiment, he said, but it has been a success and should be part of the workplace experience into the future.

He called on the Government to work with unions and employers to continue to encourage the practice, where possible.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, Mr Harbor said the legislation published last week was more of a “right to refuse” than a right to request remote working and is out of kilter with what is actually happening in workplaces.

He said the legislation needs to be radically revised if it is to capture the benefits of remote working.

Mr Harbor said the legislation does not help the most vulnerable who would benefit most from remote working arrangements, but has an employer who may simply refuse the application.

He added there is a danger that workplaces will simply revert to old work practices because the emphasis is on the phased return to work, rather than the long-term benefits of remote working.

An Irish Congress of Trade Unions spokesperson said: “The purpose of the Transitional Protocol was the subject of discussions at the Stakeholder Forum last week. The main focus of the document is to maintain safe workplaces within the context of the main restrictions having been lifted. The pandemic is not over so a cautious approach is still required.”

Article Source – New workplace guidance following easing of Covid restrictions – RTE – Samantha Libreri

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