Irish employees fear return to work ahead of 13 September

With the Government’s Covid-19 restrictions being lifted on 13 September, the majority of employees say they will be obliged to return to the workplace once it reopens.

Adjusting to new workplace Covid-19 protocols is among the biggest concerns for employees as businesses prepare to return to work on 13 September, according to new research from e-recruitment platform, Jobs.ie.

As the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise each day, workers across the country have expressed concerns regarding their return to work.  

Last week, the Irish Government put a series of measures in place across the country until 13 September in an effort to stop the spread of the virus by limiting congregation and social interaction among households.

The latest research reveals that adjusting to the workplace poses a number of concerns for employees, with those returning in two weeks’ time least looking forward to the daily commute to the work (35 per cent).

“For many businesses in Ireland, Covid-19 has made working from home the new normal – even for those who didn’t think it would be possible”

Nearly three in ten workers (28pc) said the adjustment to new protocols in the workplace will be an issue, while 13pc said they are not looking forward to using public transport again.  

Of those with the option to continue working from home once businesses can reopen; two in five say they would like to continue working from home full-time while almost half (49pc) said they would be happy to do a mixture of both. The remaining 11pc admitted that they want to return to the workplace on a full-time basis.

“For many businesses in Ireland, Covid-19 has made working from home the new normal – even for those who didn’t think it would be possible,” said Christopher Paye, general manager at Jobs.ie.

“Equally, for employees who may have been on the fence about it before, it has brought positive benefits such as a reduced commute time, or in some cases, the ability to work flexible hours.

“Following the Government’s most recent guidelines which require all businesses to return to working from home until 13 September, the question now is whether working from home will continue to be part of our everyday work life.”  

Return to work policies 

According to the survey findings, there are a mixture of return to work policies being put in place by employers, with 59pc of employees saying that they must return to the workplace when it reopens, while nearly a quarter (23pc) will have the option to work from home for a select amount of days per week. Despite the majority of workers operating from home during the peak of the pandemic, just 18pc can continue to work from home full-time, should they choose to do so.

In response to these findings, Paye added, “From our research, it is evident that there is a demand among workers for flexible schedules that allow working from home either on a full time or part time basis going forward. For employers, this should be a key consideration when implementing return to work policies. 

“While some sectors will inevitably require teams to return to the premises, others will find that there is room for flexibility, and where possible, employers should look to incorporate this into their HR policies to ensure that employees feel safe and secure in their return to the workplace.”

To ensure the safe return of employees to the workplace, businesses are also implementing a number of workplace health and safety protocols in line with HSE and public health guidance.

“From our research, it is evident that there is a demand among workers for flexible schedules”

The most common safety measures being introduced include hand sanitising stations, more frequent cleaning schedules and reduced capacity within the workplace. 

Workers across the country will be asked to wear face coverings while in the office, and Perspex partition screens are also be introduced in a number of office buildings throughout Ireland.

A small number of businesses (roughly 5pc) are also introducing additional measures to protect employees based on their specific workplace such as assigned seating, one-way entry and exit systems and lift protocols. 

For all the latest information on the Covid-19 guidelines, please visit https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/.

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 26 August, 2020