The roadmap is a living document that may change depending on the progression of the disease, and the health system and society’s capacity to adapt.
Here we detail the impact of this roadmap for workplaces. Please also read the CIPD’s practical guidance on the return to the workplace process, and the safe and inclusive practices that will aid you through this period. The Government’s roadmap is available here.
The roadmap provides a framework with indicative measures set out for five different phases. These measures are seen as a flexible menu of possible options. The current assessment proposes dates for the commencement of each phase, operating with a three-week review process. See the table in the Economic Activity (Work) section below for details of the phases and dates.
This approach is in line with WHO guidance to provide a gradual change of public health social distancing measures over time, with potential reintroduction of restrictions if an upsurge in disease occurs.
The roadmap is guided by a number of over-riding principles, which may equally be applied to workplaces as they plan forward for adopting to these phases:
- Safe: Informed and guided by a public health assessment of risk.
- Rational: Includes consideration of the social and economic benefits and impacts of any modifications of restrictions and their feasibility.
- Evidence-informed: Uses all of the data and research available to us to guide thinking.
- Fair: Ethical and respects human dignity, autonomy and supports equality.
- Open and transparent: Decisions are clear, well communicated and subject to the necessary checks and balances.
- Whole of society: Based on the concept of solidarity and supporting cohesion as we exit over time
At no time does the roadmap veer away from the fundamentals of the public health measures that keep us all safe.
Economic Activity (Work)
The re-start of the economic activity is to be phased in, so that authorities and businesses can adequately adjust to increasing activities in safe way, recognising the interdependency between public health and wellbeing and economic activity. It is not expected that all the population should go back to the workplace at the same time, with an initial focus on less endangered groups and sectors that are essential to facilitate economic activity.
The reopening measures cover seven different categories of activity: Community Health, Education and Childcare, Health and Social Care Services, Economic Activity (Work), Retail, Personal Services and Commercial Activities, Cultural and Social Measures, and Transport and Travel Measures. Each category is impacted differently, and the relevance of each category to your sector workplace must be assessed.
Below we focus on a summary of the return to the workplace measures for Economic Activity (Work) laid out in the roadmap:
Fundamental to the phasing is the capacity for workplaces to implement adequate social distancing measures. Public health risk is lower in workplaces where adequate arrangements are made to limit population density in order to facilitate social distancing and limit person to person contact and the time spent in contact. At all points, even after Phase 5, remote working is to continue for all that can do so.
Organisations will be expected to consider different models to minimise on-site population density (staggered hours, shift working, split teams, etc) and take account of vulnerable groups. At all times, the collective national impact of increasing access and mobility will have to be assessed, and not just the safety of the individual facility.
A National Protocol is being finalised by Government, under the Health and Safety Authority (HSE), to support a gradual restart of economic activity, while protecting the health and safety of workers as they return to work and determine the most effective type of enforcement to achieve compliance across all business sectors.
High risk groups: Under current guidance, high risk individuals need to stay home. The HSE list of people in high risk groups includes the following, though they may travel to work if they provide an essential service:
- are over 60 years of age
- have a learning disability
- have certain or serious medical conditions, a weak immune system or on medication such as steroids that can affect the immune system (see HSE list)
The management of certain cohorts will need careful consideration in the return to the workplace process, and ideally reasonable accommodations would be agreed.
- Education and childcare measures: Limited crèche operations may be permitted from Phase 4 (20 July) and all educational establishments are due to open in September/October 2020.
- Transport and travel measures: The guidance that employees are not permitted to travel to and from work, unless they are engaged in essential services, continues. Public transport providers are actively restricting and monitor numbers travelling to ensure social distancing compliance. From Phase 3 (29 June), there may be travel restrictions on travelling to and in major urban centres. It is hope that these will progressively decrease in Phase 4. There is an ongoing requirement that people travelling in private transportation maintain social distancing and hygiene and comply with other requirements.
- International travel restrictions and controls: To protect Ireland from imported cases, Government advice remains that all non-essential travel should be avoided. This includes travel both into and from Ireland. All passengers arriving in Ireland from overseas have to self-isolate for 14 days, like those who test positive. In addition, incoming passengers have to complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form to facilitate spot checks.
- Employment supports: The Government is extending the emergency measures taken in relation to Illness Benefit and the waiver of waiting days for jobseeker payments until 19 June. Between now and the end of May, the Government is working on a roadmap for future labour market measures relating to the need to support people back into jobs as they become available as well as structural changes in the labour market. It is acknowledged that additional measures will have to be taken to reach out to more vulnerable groups.
Please read the CIPD’s practical guidance on returning to the workplace, and the safe and inclusive practices that will aid you through this period.
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