Work Safely Protocol – New Transitional Protocol urging a cautious approach to returning to work

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At the end of January, the Government announced an end to most of the restrictions put in place because of the necessary public health measures responding to the pandemic, including, the requirement to work from home unless necessary to attend the workplace in person.  This means a phased return to physical attendance in workplaces can commence. The protocol highlights, however, that employers may want to keep some of the rules in place for the health and safety of their employees. Sarah Fagan, Managing Director at Adare Human Resource Management takes a closer look at what is advised in the latest draft of the Transitional Protocol document.


The Transitional Protocol

Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 was published on Monday 31st January 2022 and is a revision of the Work Safely Protocol.  It provides advice and guidance for employers and workers to maintain infection prevention and control (IPC) and other measures to allow a safe return to the workplace and its continued safe operation including a gradual process for returning to the workplace, ongoing consultation with employees and their representatives as well as introducing permanent blended working arrangements where appropriate and supports for employees nervous about the return to the office.

The Protocol states that the pandemic is not yet over given the potential of new variants but outlines that some measures have been relaxed including the requirement to maintain a two-metre distance, and that employers are not obliged to retain contact details of all office visitors, (but may need to provide attendance information to health officials in the event of a Covid outbreak in the workplace).

Employers, however, should consider maintaining some of the practices laid out in the previous versions of the Work Safely Protocols for a period of time particularly around meetings, events or staff training. The use of hand sanitiser, correct respiratory etiquette and ensuring adequate ventilation are all still noted as important measures to prevent the spread of Coivd-19.  The Protocols also state that mask wearing may be considered in situations where employees share work vehicles and that employers should facilitate and support the use of face masks by employees who wish to continue wearing them.

Each workplace should update and maintain their Covid-19 Response Plan including plans around suspected cases among employees and continue to keep employees updated around key changes. The Protocols document states that anyone who develops symptoms, even if fully vaccinated and boosted, should self-isolate immediately as this is a critical prevention component.  A key message remains that an employee should not attend the workplace if they are displaying any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have a positive COVID-19 test and employers should ensure that this is clearly communicated to employees. 

Ensuring a safe workplace requires strong communication of key messages, consistency in the implementation of infection prevention and control measures such as rapid self-isolation of those displaying symptoms, and a shared collaborative approach between employers and employees. Employers, employees and/or their recognised Trade Union or other representatives need to continue to have regular engagement about COVID-19 infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in workplaces even with the changed public health advice issued on 21st of January 2022.

The full The Transitional Protocol: Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 can be found on the Adare Human Resource Management website. And if any Shannon Chamber member has any questions or queries relating to their responsibilities under the protocols, please contact one of the Shannon HR team.


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For further information on the HR and Employment Law support services provided, to arrange a meeting or to receive a quote, contact the team at Shannon Chamber – / 061 475 854.