After the latest period of COVID-19 measures were introduced in November 2021 in an attempt to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, many were surprised at how quickly the latest measures were lifted as a result of NPHET’s recommendations on Thursday 20 January 2022.
There has been little in the way of updated guidance for employers around the phased return to the office and in the absence of any such guidance, employers should still adhere to the existing Work Safely Protocol in developing their plan to return employees to the workplace.
What workplace restrictions now apply?
The Government has advised that from Monday, 24 January 2022, a phased return to workplaces can begin. Many employers will have started preparations for a phased return to the office, which was originally scheduled for 20 September 2021 and many of the same principles will apply. However, it is important for employers to note the following:
- The use of face coverings is to be continued where currently required
- Social distancing is no longer required
- The requirement to isolate if an employee has symptoms of Covid-19 remains
- Close contacts must also continue to restrict their movements for 7 days unless they have either tested positive for Covid-19 since 1 December 2021, or received the booster vaccine more than 7 days before the close contact incident
- Enhanced illness benefit has been extended until the end of June 2022
- The Pandemic Unemployment Payment has closed for new applications since 22 January 2022. From 8 March 2022, the PUP will become a weekly payment of €208 and from 5 April 2022, remaining eligible PUP recipients will be transferred to a jobseeker’s payment.
While we do not have any updated guidance from the Government on the phased return to work, employers should still refer to the Work Safely Protocol, subject to the measures set out above, to ensure that workplaces operate in a manner which prevents the spread of COVID-19 and continue to follow the public health advice. Employers should also bear in mind that under current Irish law, they still cannot make vaccination a condition of the return to the office or ask employees for details of their vaccination status.
For more information or if you would like to discuss the potential impact of this issue on your business, please contact a member of our Employment & Benefits team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.