Returning to Work after Covid19

12 Aug 2021
Niamh Gregory By Niamh Gregory

For many people, this Autumn will be the first time that they have set foot in their workplace this year. While working from home has its benefits, many are looking forward to having some social interaction away from screens! Your health and safety upon returning to work is of paramount importance and there are a number of things both the employee and the employer are responsible for in order to minimize the threat of Covid-19 in the workplace.

If you would like more detailed information, you can check out the Work Safety Protocol Document published by the HAS, HSE and the Department of Health and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. CLICK HERE  

 

As an Employer

If you are the employer, there are a number of steps you need to implement before you reopen the workplace to your employees. It is mandatory that you appoint one lead worker to ensure that the health and safety measures you put in place are being followed.

Appropriate signage must be displayed across the building outlining best practices for hand-washing, social distancing and conduct regarding masks in communal areas as well as hand sanitiser stationed at busy areas such as the main entrance and at bathrooms.

Covid-19 is still very much a reality and people must remain vigilant. In the event there is a suspected case, measures must be in place in the event they are unable or unfit to leave the workplace immediately. Your workplace must also follow a frequent and efficient cleaning schedule, with regular sanitization of touchpoints like door handles.

Covid-19 induction training should be given to employees outlining the new rules and regulations prior or on their initial arrival to the workplace. Pre-return to work forms should be distributed to employees prior to their return to the workplace and is mandatory. The form will ask employees whether or not they have presented symptoms of Covid-19, have not been diagnosed or suspected of Covid-19 in the last 14 days and that they are not restricting their movements.

A Returning to Work form template can be found HERE

Employers must also be mindful of employee mental health and be aware of the supports available to them.

 

Antigen Testing in the Workplace

Antigen Testing is not mandatory and is left to the discretion of the employer. If you decide to implement a Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Test regime, you must discuss and agree the implementation of a testing regime with you, the lead workers representative, the safety representative and the union (if there is one), and implement a process for those employees who do not wish to participate.

For detailed guidance on the Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Testing Scheme see section D13 of the Work Safety Protocol 

 

As an Employee

As an employee, it is your responsibility to follow the public health guidance from the government, as well as company policy on Covid-19 health and safety in the workplace.

Employers should practice good personal hygiene such as frequent hand-washing, social distancing and the use of masks in required areas.

In the event you develop symptoms do NOT enter the workplace. Even if you are vaccinated. Seek a Covid-19 test immediately and restrict your movements.

After you fill out your Return to Work form, it is advised you travel to work alone where possible. In the event you share a car with someone, keep the windows slightly open to improve ventilation and wear a mask for the duration of the journey. If you are using public transport, you MUST wear a face covering.

 While your physical health during the pandemic is important, your mental health is also of paramount importance. If you are feeling uncomfortable or anxious about your return to work, including concern over the safety of members in your household who are high risk, discuss it with your employer and they will do their best to accommodate you.  

If your employer is not meeting the health and safety requirements and you wish to make a complaint, the Health and Safety Authority handle complaints which can be made HERE

It is advised that you discuss this with your employer before filing a complaint in order to give them a chance to fix the issue. 

 

Covid-19 is unchartered territory for both employer and employee, and it is everyone’s responsibility to follow government guidelines in order to keep each other safe.