The Government’s Return to Work protocol is a “complete and utter mess” with no clarity on whether companies can ask workers if they have been vaccinated.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, employment lawyer Richard Grogan warned that, without clear Government guidelines on vaccination in the workplace, many companies could find themselves facing litigation when they try to bring people back to work.
Meanwhile, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has warned that unvaccinated workers must be kept two metres apart.
However, the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has warned that companies can’t ask workers about the vaccination status and human rights lawyers have warned that people can’t be excluded from work based on their status.
“The Government is going to have to clarify this next week,” said Mr Grogan. “What can and what can’t be asked.”
“The Return-to-Work protocol which was brought out by the Tánaiste earlier on this year effectively says you can ask and then you carry out a risk assessment. Two weeks after he issued that, the DPC says you can’t ask.
Work Safely Protocol
So, we have a Return-to-Work protocol that says you ask for the purposes of a risk assessment and we have the DPC saying you can’t ask.
“So, it is a complete and utter mess. Employment lawyers, Health and Safety and GDPR professionals, we are all going around pulling our hair out because people are saying what do I do and we are saying well I wish I could tell you in some way definitively but what we’re saying today could be changed tomorrow.
“We are being told now it is likely to be personal responsibility which some of us are reading as, they are going to take the regulations away and it is going to be a bit of a free for all.”
He said he is now skeptical aver whether next week’s roadmap for reopening will include anything more than “a fudge” when it comes to vaccination in the workplace.
“The alternative would be that we get a Pontius Pilot system which in other words is, I am washing my hands of it and there it is. They'll get rid of regulations and say it is only just general advice, not even guidance and it is over the employers and employees; a bit of a free-for-all - and that is worrying,” he said.
“That is a complete mess. We just can’t have this. It is buck-passing. An Irish solution to an Irish problem; it is not my problem; it is someone else’s problem.
“We have to have clarity next Tuesday.”
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