Workers will have to honour their contracts if an employer tells them to return to the office later this month, according to the Tánaiste.
The return will come just under a month before the October 22nd deadline for the lifting of almost all restrictions in Ireland.
Tens of thousands of people have been working from home right through the pandemic – and this marks the first change to Government advice on avoiding the workplace since Christmas.
Speaking after the roadmap was announced, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said workers will legally have little option but to return if their employer asks them to.
“There have been lots of people who have been going into work every day,” he said.
“Bus drivers, people working in retail, people working in healthcare, gardaí – they have never been able to say that they don’t feel comfortable.
“I don’t think it would be reasonable now to say to people who have been working from home that somehow, you don’t have to go back to work because you don’t feel comfortable.
“I don’t think that would be reasonable or respectful to all those people so, the position is, if you have signed an employment contract, you have to honour it.”
“If you’ve signed an employment contract, you have to honour it” – Leo Varadkar says workers will have to return to the office if their employer tells them to. pic.twitter.com/LoNjNLY2vm
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) September 1, 2021
Updated advice on the return to the workplace is due to be published in the coming weeks; however, facemasks are expected to be mandatory until October 22nd.
After that date, there will only be three scenarios where they will be legally required.
“That is public transport, retail and healthcare,” said Minister Varadkar. “I imagine that will include airports and train stations and so on.”
“However, what we will be saying to people is that, perhaps it makes sense for you to choose to wear a mask in certain settings.”
Speaking to Newstalk yesterday, Peter Cosgrove, Managing Director of Futurewise said employers should take their time putting in place new policies on working from home.
“A lot of people are trying to focus on the models that employers should be using – should you be working from home two days or three days – but the reality is employers should be piloting things and trying things out and not putting in policies straight away,” he said.
He also warned that employers have a right to ask workers to return to the office.
The Tánaiste said new guidance for managing the return to work will be published in the coming weeks.
In preparation for the return, public transport is today returning to full capacity.
The change applies to all operators and the NTA said a range of safety measures remain in place – including face masks, daily cleaning, on-board ventilation and hand sanitising facilities.
On The Hard Shoulder yesterday, the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the entire reopening plan comes with a "heavy caveat" that easing restrictions will depend on COVID-19 rates.