The owner of four SuperValu stores in Cork and Limerick says they had more than 100 staff absent yesterday alone due to the impact of the Omicron wave.
Many businesses and service providers across the country had to rearrange rosters or, in some cases, temporarily close this week due to the number of staff currently unavailable.
It comes as daily COVID-19 case numbers remain extremely high, with the five-day moving average of new cases still above 19,000.
It has left well over 100,000 people self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, and many more restricting their movements as close contacts.
NPHET is to meet today, and they've been asked by Government to review the isolation rules for close contacts in light of the staff shortages being experienced by businesses and essential services.
Liam Ryan is the owner of the Ryan's SuperValu group in Cork, and operates three stores in Cork and one in Limerick.
He told The Pat Kenny Show they currently have scores of staff out due to COVID-19.
He explained: “We’ve learned to cope over the last 21 months… our regular staff have stepped up to the plate and have done a wonderful job. But since Christmas, we’ve had a particular issue with the new variant.
“Yesterday, we had 102 staff missing - either directly through COVID or as close contacts. That has improved this morning - we’re down to 91 people out.”
In response to the staffing issues, the remaining workers have been told to prioritise certain tasks and defer jobs as necessary.
Liam said the staff are doing a "fantastic job" covering other jobs wherever possible, but they are under "great pressure".
The business has had to make some temporary adjustments in response to the current situation - including earlier closing times for one store on several days last week.
Liam noted: “We as a Supervalu group have specialists such as butchers and bakers… one store has a particular issue, in that two butchers are out. Because we’re a group, we’re able to manage staff and fill in the [gaps]."
He believes there will be staffing issues for the next 3-4 weeks before the current wave ‘tapers off’, but hopes they'll "be back on track" by the end of January.
For now, however, Liam is hoping for clarity around the rules from NPHET and Government, amid some confusion around different isolation requirements for different cohorts.
He said: “We’d like to know when [staff] will be back and what’s the criteria for why they’re out. I think the Government needs to clarify that point for us.”