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News & Events

Tánaiste publishes revised Protocol to help employers and workers manage return to work safely

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD today published the Transitional Protocol, a guidance document, setting out best practice for keeping the workplace safe to help employers and their employees return to work safely.

The Protocol has been revised following engagement with employer and employee representative groups.

On 21 January, the Government announced the relaxation of many public health measures, including the requirement on public health grounds, to work from home unless necessary to attend in person. The phased return to the physical workplace is now underway.

The Tánaiste said:

“Firstly, I’d just like to thank all businesses and their staff for their phenomenal work to date in keeping themselves and customers safe during the pandemic. We’ve seen widespread compliance with the public health safety measures, which has saved countless lives and prevented a lot of illness. Now that we are in a position to relax almost all restrictions and the phased return to the physical workplace has begun, our guidance to employers is changing.

“This Transitional Protocol has been developed in consultation with business representative groups and unions. It’s a guidance document and is designed to help not to complicate. The emphasis on personal protective measures, including getting vaccinated and boosted, still stands, and it is still crucial that anyone with symptoms, isolates and takes a test – either an antigen or PCR depending on their circumstances.  

“Some of the guidance contained in this document is good advice regardless of Covid, the emphasis on providing good ventilation and air quality for example, and this will no doubt cut down on the transmission of other airborne viruses too, keeping everyone healthier. The same applies to hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

“I know employers are speaking to their staff about future working arrangements. We have an opportunity to make remote and hybrid working a permanent fixture of Irish working life. The principle should be that once the business is done and public services are not diminished in any way, it should be facilitated. When workers are in the workplace, this document gives guidance on how to keep them safe.” 

Damien English TD, Minister for Business, Employment and Retail said:

“The phased return to the physical workplace over the next number of weeks marks another major milestone for many workers in Ireland and in our recovery from the pandemic. The new protocol offers a reassurance to workers and employers that they can do safely.

“The return to work for many has been enabled by the high uptake of the vaccination and booster programme, and through high levels of adherence to public health measures by the Irish people over the period of the pandemic.

“It is great to see people being able to return to the office once more.  However, it does remain important that everyone continues to play their part in limiting transmission of the virus and those employers and workers continue to remain vigilant and support good practices for a safe working environment.

To this end, the Health and Safety Authority’s Contact Centre which assisted greatly in the continued safe operation of workplaces during the height of the pandemic for many workers, remains available to employers and employees to raise any queries or concerns.”

COVID-19 infection prevention and control (IPC) measures should still be part of any workplace risk assessment. Therefore, the control measures set out in the Protocol should remain a focus for employers, business managers and employees, with many elements considered good practice. It remains critically important that everyone continues to play their part in limiting transmission.

The Health and Safety Authority’s Contact Centre remains available to employers and employees to raise queries or concerns, see Workplace Contact Unit - Health and Safety Authority (hsa.ie)

This Protocol continues to be a collaborative effort by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE), Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health. The update also follows discussion and agreement at the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), which is the forum for high-level dialogue between Government, Trade Union and Employer representatives on matters related to the labour force. This work has also been overseen by the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Notes to Editors

The revision of the Work Safely Protocol, Transitional Protocol - Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 can be accessed here: Transitional Protocol: Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

The Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 is the latest such document, reflecting the most up to date advice on the safe operation of workplace since the Return to Work Safely Protocol first published in May 2020. The  revised Protocol incorporates the current Public Health advice, on the measures needed to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the community and in workplaces as issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and the Department of Health.

The Protocol is a general guidance document applicable to all sectors. It is not designed to prohibit the introduction of further specific measures in particular sectors or workplaces. Further specific measures can be introduced as long as they enhance the measures set out in the Protocol.