Government Announces Additional Public Holoiday
Following a number of discussions and much speculation the Government has made the long-awaited announcement of additional public holidays.
Once-off Public HolidayThe first announcement outlined the provision of a once-off public holiday which will take place on Friday March 18,2022. According to the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, the designation of this once-off public holiday is in recognition of the efforts of the general public, volunteers and all workers throughout the Covid pandemic. The Tánaiste outlined that following the new public holiday a “Day of Remembrance and Recognition, will be held in memory of the more than 9,000 people who have died on the island of Ireland withCOVID”, which is set to take place over St. Patrick’s weekend.
New Public HolidayIncluded in the announcement was a permanent and additional public holiday which will commence next year in 2023.This additional public holiday will take place on the first Monday of February each year, except where the 1st of February falls on a Friday in which case the public holiday will be observed on the Friday.
The power to introduce additional public holidays is provided under the second schedule of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, which is under policy remit of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
Employers must now ensure that are familiar with the provisions of the Act in determining the benefits that will apply to the additional public holidays which can vary depending on whether an Employee works full time or part time.
Recognition PaymentThe final announcement made by the Tánaiste related to the provision of a recognition payment in the amount of €1,000. The payment will be applied to eligible frontline health and ambulance workers and limited to those employees ordinarily onsite in Covid exposed healthcare environments.
The announcement will be welcomed by most and is just the beginning of changes set to be introduced by Government with the Tánaiste referencing his Departments commitment to establishing this year: the right to statutory sick pay, the right to request remote working, new rights around redundancy for works laid off during the pandemic and better protection of workplace gratuities/ tips.
We will be keeping a close eye on the progression of these rights over the course of the coming weeks and months and providing you with insights into how the legislation is advancing and what it means for Employers and Employees alike.
Government Announces An End To Restrictions
Friday January 22, 2022, saw the announcement by Government of an end to most of the restrictions put in place because of the necessary public health measures responding to the pandemic.
The move by Government to withdraw the majority of restrictions will come as welcomed news and signals a return to normalcy, long anticipated by the majority of people.
As of Monday, January 24, 2022, a return to physical attendance in the workplace cancommence which means that Employers must now decide how this will work inpractice appropriate to their sector.
Communication with Employees is important to ensure a phased return to the workplace is successful and this includes communicating the adherence requirements to any new/ revisedpolicies and procedures, such as sick leave policies/ procedures. It is also important if there are any temporary changes to work patterns to accommodate a safe return. Engaging with your Employees to understand any concerns or misgivings on returning to the workplace is essential to gaining buy-in for the return itself.
Health & Safety
Health & Safety must remain an integral part of any plans to return to the workplace. The Work Safely Protocols remain in place albeit the requirement for physical distancing has since been removed with the Government’s announcement. Ensuring that the workplace still adheresto the protective measures as laid out in the Protocols is essential. As a business Employers should ensure that their Covid Response Plan and Suspected Case Response Plan remain in place. Updated Risk Assessments and Safety Statements must reflect any changes to the work environment in particular where Employee presence in the workplace is set to increase. Public health advice on symptoms and isolation periods must continue to be followed in adherence tomedical advice.
Not withstanding the importance of health and safety and communication, the question now for most organisations is, how much of a role flexible working arrangements will have in the return to the workplace and what the right mix of remote and office-based working is required for the success of the business?
We know remote working has worked, we know Employees like the flexibility it offers and it’s a contributing factor to a better work life balance. But it does have potential downsides; lesscollaboration negatively impacts innovation, Employees can feel isolated, performance management can be more complicated, which in turn can lead to issues if not conducted in line with correct procedure and legislation. The Government’s National Remote Work Strategy means that plans for legislation on the right to request remote working are underway but until we have a clearerpicture on what the means for Employers and Employees alike, businesses must decide how best to incorporate, or not, remote/ blended working in practice.
Flexible or Blended Work Models
Employers need to carefully consider what work model aligns most effectively with their business strategy and objectives, and if either remote or blended working is suitable for their business. However, a longer-term view needs to be taken – a decision to simply return to the officejust because you can, may not necessarily be the right one, particularly in light of strategic priorities within the business. Employee retention remains a top priority for most businesses and decisions on the type of working model may inform retention strategies, so making informed decisions will play a vital role in determining what is best for their business.
Considerations for Employers
Carefully assess the suitability of the roles that you are considering for blended working and clearly outline the rational for your decision-making; this will help avoid any issues or accusations ofdiscrimination at a later date.
Articulate your expectations relating to blended working, making it clear the days/ times you expect Employees to be in the workplace or available to carry out work.
Outline what costs, if any, you are willing to cover outside of the workplace; heating, electricity, broadband,etc. And, be clear on what equipment you are willing to supply the Employeewith while working remotely – also being cognisant of your responsibilitiesunder the appropriate health & safety legislation.
Ensure policies relating to performance management, grievance, conflict & dispute are updatedaccordingly and ensure the procedures that are in place reflect these changes and impact of hybrid working.
Understand where your Employee will be working from when outside the workplace; will they be outside the jurisdiction and if so, what are the tax implications?
And, agree who is responsible for insurance costs if working remotely from home. While there is much to consider for Employers and organisations when deciding to implement blended or flexibleworking, the benefits can add real value in terms of the Employer-Employee relationship and increased productivity and profitability. Removal of restrictions mean that Employers have a real opportunity to set the new standard for ways of working both now and into the future and bringing your Employees on that journey is now more important than ever.
Expert advice &support is available At Adare Human Resource Management, we have the expertiseand experience to support you in preparing your Covid-19 Response Plan as well providing Health & Safety Training, Updated Checklists and providing you with all additional supports required to help you reopen your business.