In Brief: Important Updates from May 2021Posted in : Supplementary Articles ROI on 8 June 2021
This month's In Brief looks at a number of Covid-19 related employment developments, including advice on vaccinations for employees on both sides of the border and much more besides.
ISME Dissatisfied with Non-Vaccinated Workers' Guidance
Small firms' body ISME has accused the Government of exposing employers to potential legal action by failing to give them "robust" guidance on handling situations where employees choose not to be vaccinated. In a letter to Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, ISME Chief Executive Neil McDonnell acknowledges the "absolute" right of citizens to refuse vaccination. However, he says some employers believe the Government's latest Work Safely Protocol published two weeks ago does not address difficulties regarding unvaccinated staff - particularly in smaller enterprises, where capacity to redeploy unvaccinated staff - as recommended in the Work Safely Protocol - is "extremely limited".
A Practical Guide to the COVID-19 Vaccination and the Workplace
Meanwhile, in NI the Labour Relations Agency (the NI equivalent of the WRC) has published the above guide. This guide sets out some of the key considerations for employers regarding issues around the vaccination of staff, including how to tackle some of the ethical, legal and practical challenges. There are signposts to additional information and the guide also includes a sample COVID-19 vaccination policy.
- Employers should think carefully about compiling a 'COVID-19 vaccination in the workplace' policy document.
- Employers should approach the issue in a voluntary and encouraging perspective.
- Employers should be aware of a variety of legal issues that underpin the policy.
- Employers should always take into account fact sensitivities when applying a policy.
- Employers should strive to retain effective and harmonious employment relations regarding the implementation of a policy.
Equality Watchdog Backs Mandatory Vaccinations for Care Home Workers
Across the water, GB's equality watchdog has backed mandatory vaccinations of employees working at care homes.
In a submission to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it was "reasonable to require" care home workers who work directly with older and disabled people to be vaccinated.
Responding to the DHSC's consultation on making vaccinations compulsory for older adult care home workers, the EHRC said the government was "right to prioritise protection of the right to life" when legislating for mandatory vaccination.
Survey Shows High Level of Support for Remote Working
Lockdown and WFH have changed the way many people now think about work. On this side of the Border in Ireland, data from the second annual national remote working survey in Ireland shows that 95% of respondents were in favour of working remotely on an on-going basis to some extent.
The overwhelming majority (95%) is a significant increase from the 83% who wanted to continue to work remotely for some or all of the time in the 2020 survey. Conversely, only 5% indicated that they did not wish to work remotely to any extent - a drop from 16% who gave that response a year ago. The number of respondents working fully remotely fell from 87% in April 2020 to 75% at the end of April 2021 as there was more of a mix of onsite and remote (20%) in the latest survey.
The survey report and analysis is available here:
Facing the Challenges of Returning to Work - Wherever You Are
The Limeade Institute conducted a global study to understand the current state of the employee experience and how companies are moving into 2021. This is an important study and will be relevant to many of us. It has the more obvious statistics about homeworking increasing - in their study from around 6% from before the pandemic to 39% during lockdown.
What is more concerning is that there was not a single employee that did not have any anxiety about returning to the office/worksite. The top selected source of anxiety was being exposed to COVID-19 (77%); though, this was followed closely by the idea of less flexibility (71%) and having to commute to work again (68.5%).
There is a lot of very interesting and useful information in this report. Highly recommended:
No More Snow Days: School Would Continue Remotely Under Reform Plans
And the law of unintended consequences applies again: An end to school closures in Ireland for snow, bad weather and other unexpected reasons may be on the cards, the Department of Education has signalled. The department wants technology similar to that pioneered during the Covid-19 crisis to be used by teachers and special needs assistants to provide remote learning and supports to children in such circumstances.
Latest on Coronavirus/Covid-19
- The Updated Work Safely Protocol - Practical Implications For Employers
- An Audience with RDJ - September 2021
- Eagerly Awaited Guidance On Returning To The Workplace Published
- The Return to the Office – Your Questions Answered
- The Covid Vaccine And The Return To Work - How Do I Handle it?
- Apprentice Carpenter v Joinery Manufacturing Company 
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.