Some public service employers are flouting restrictions on workplace attendance, leading union says 1 week ago

Some public service employers are flouting restrictions on workplace attendance, leading union says

“Fórsa is speaking out because we believe staff and service-users are being unnecessarily exposed to potentially virus-spreading interactions in workplaces and on public transport, and that this will likely impede the national effort to contain the virus."

Some public service employers are flouting government restrictions on workplace attendance by forcing employees to travel to work for roles which could be done remotely due to the pandemic, the state's largest public service union has said.

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Fórsa said government restrictions during Level 5 of Covid-19 instruct that employees should work from home unless they perform “an essential health, social care or other essential service,” which “cannot be done from home.”

"As an employer you have a basic duty of care to your staff," Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said on 4 January.

"Only bring them to work if that work is essential in its nature, and if their presence is essential."

However, the union said the national effort to bring the coronavirus under control could be undermined by widespread management failure to properly identify which workers need to attend their work premises to undertake essential functions during the emergency.

The guidelines issued to public service employers by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) say: “Home working will continue as and when deemed appropriate by the employer, having regard to the changes that may be required at each level.”

The union argues this is substantially weaker than the government advice.

Fórsa spokesperson Bernard Harbor said far too many public servants were being required to travel to work to perform roles that can and should be done remotely at the height of the pandemic.

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“The public health advice is clear: Staff should be working from home unless their attendance in the workplace is absolutely necessary to provide essential services. Yet there are many more public servants being ordered into the workplace now than last March, when infection rates were lower and the pressure on our health service was considerably less severe.

“The letter and tone of the HR advice to public service managers is at odds with official restrictions deemed necessary to bring the virus under control. This is contributing to a form of macho-management, which fails to put public safety first by properly distinguishing between those who need to be in the workplace right now and those who don’t.

“Fórsa is speaking out because we believe staff and service-users are being unnecessarily exposed to potentially virus-spreading interactions in workplaces and on public transport, and that this will likely impede the national effort to contain the virus,” he said.