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The Irish Government has announced that hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation can reopen for overnight guests from 2 June 2021. All outdoor hospitality, including restaurants and all pubs, will be permitted to reopen for outdoor service from 7 June 2021. With this in mind, we outline the essential employment considerations for employers in the hospitality sector, in preparation for reopening.

Health & safety considerations

Reopening preparations should include:

  • Carrying out a risk assessment to mitigate the risks of transmitting COVID-19 in the workplace

  • Waking the building up – doing a deep clean and checking the air conditioning system

  • Requiring workers to complete the HSA’s pre-return to work form at least three days before their return to the workplace

  • Putting infection prevention and control measures in place to limit the transmission of COVID-19

  • Providing workers with up to date information and guidance in relation to COVID-19, including the proper use of PPE equipment and hand hygiene

  • Providing induction training for all workers on their return to the workplace

  • Appointing, and providing training to, a Lead Worker Representative to assist in implementing and monitoring COVID-19 measures

  • Keeping the COVID-19 response plan up to date

  • Maintaining policies and procedures for identifying and dealing with suspected cases of COVID-19 in the workplace

  • Cleaning work areas regularly

  • Reviewing and updating occupational health and safety risk assessments and the safety statement

Practical considerations

  • Review and adhere to updated public health guidance, and Failte Ireland guidelines for the reopening of the hospitality and tourism sector. These include detailed advice for different types of businesses within the sector

  • Decide whether all workers will be required to return at the same time

  • Assess and adjust work patterns as necessary in order implement the COVID-19 prevention measures

  • Where employees have been on lay-off and in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, they should be notified in writing that that the lay-off is finishing and that work is available

  • Where there is a build-up of accrued annual leave, employees can be asked to take annual leave at certain times. Technically, employers must notify and consult with employees at least one month before the annual leave

  • Review and update HR policies, eg sick leave and business travel policies, as needed

  • Arrange for refresher work training as appropriate

  • Put in place supports for workers suffering from anxiety or stress related to returning to the workplace

  • If new hires are needed, make sure new employees are issued written statements of terms in line with the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994-2001 (as amended) and that all employees have appropriate permission to work in Ireland

Other legal considerations

  • Follow the Work Safely Protocol. This sets out the minimum measures required to facilitate the re-opening of hospitality workplaces following temporary closures and the ongoing safe operation of workplaces

  • Allow workers in high risk categories to work from home where possible. If these workers cannot work from home, seeking to accommodate a 2 metre physical distance from others in the workplace where possible

  • Delete return to work forms once they have been checked, or document reasons for their retention, and use a reasonable retention period

  • If measures such as staggered working hours are needed to facilitate COVID-19 prevention measures, employees’ contractual working hours may need to be altered. Before changing any terms of employment, employers should:

    • consult with any affected employees and obtain their consent in advance of the change being implemented, and

    • notify employees in writing of any changes to terms of employment no later than one month after the change takes effect


  • There is no legal requirement to be vaccinated. Workers have a constitutional right to privacy and bodily integrity, as well as a right to work and earn a living

  • In order to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers may encourage or request workers to be vaccinated (once vaccination has been made available to a worker’s particular age group/category)

  • However, unless the Irish government legislates for such a requirement, employers cannot require that workers be vaccinated


As the hospitality sector reopens, employers will need to prioritise carrying out updated risk assessments of their premises. This is to ensure any issues can be addressed in a timely manner so that the workplace can re-open as soon as feasibly possible. Clear and timely communication with employees regarding the return to work, and any necessary changes to work practices, will be essential in addressing employee concerns, and ensuring a smooth transition back to the physical workplace.

For more information and expert guidance on successfully making a seamless transition for your employees, 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.

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