Cabinet has agreed on a reopening timeline that will see the majority of COVID-19 restrictions ended by October 22nd.
While the plan is dependent on COVID-19 cases remaining manageable and 90% of adults being fully vaccinated, the outlook is nonetheless a positive one for business and society.
Below, we look at the key timeline dates of interest to employers.
The Cabinet’s plan includes dates ranging from the beginning of September to the end of October. Key dates to be mindful of are:
- September 1st: Public transport to return to full capacity. Commuters must continue to wear face masks.
- September 6th: Larger attendance permitted at religious ceremonies and sports events. Live music to return in bars and at weddings, while indoor venues can use 60% capacity for vaccinated people; 75% at outdoor locations if vaccinated.
- September 20th: A phased return to the workplace will begin in accordance with a new Work Safely Protocol which will be introduced prior to this date. Employer flexibility is encouraged during this process. Indoor activities (sports, arts, dance classes etc.) can also recommence.
- October 22nd: All remaining general COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted. However, some restrictions will remain including self-isolation for anyone with symptoms or a positive test result, social distancing in healthcare institutions, and mask wearing in certain settings including indoor retail and public transport.
It was also announced that Pandemic Unemployment Payments (PUP) will continue to be available until February 2022, but the transition to Jobseekers Allowance will begin in early September.
Cause for optimism?
Moira Grassick is Managing Director at Peninsula Ireland. She says: “Today’s announcement is a cause for optimism but does not mean that employers should not be cautious. Some employees may be cautious about returning to the workplace for fear that it puts them at a greater risk of contracting coronavirus, especially if they are clinically vulnerable.
“Rather than requiring employees to return (e.g., stating that an employee will lose their job if they don’t return), it is important to first determine why the employee is reluctant. Once this has been established, the right kind of conversation can then be had with them – keeping their specific circumstances in mind, as well as government guidance, and the needs of the business.
“Employers have a duty of care to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees and this has not changed despite the Government’s change in guidance. Employers should consider the nature of the workforce and listen to individual concerns. If employers decide to make face coverings mandatory in the workplace, they should remember that some employees may continue to be exempt. Employers should also be prepared for some resistance from whichever side of the facemask/no facemask argument has not gotten their preferred outcome. Dealing with this should be on a case-by-case basis.
“Employees should be expected to comply with workplace rules. However, to manage any such resistance, employers are advised to listen to individual circumstances and explain how these have been considered in risk assessments.
“Employers should carry out the appropriate risk assessments to determine:
- how quickly staff should be brought back
- who should be brought back
- the safety rules that should be in place, e.g., facemasks, and
- whether it is appropriate to wait for most employees to be vaccinated before filling up offices.”
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