Retailers may still face staff shortages despite easing COVID rules

Asymptomatic boosted close contacts will no longer have to restrict movements, under plans set to be approved by Cabinet
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.47 11 Jan 2022

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Retailers may still face staff...

Retailers may still face staff shortages despite easing COVID rules

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.47 11 Jan 2022

Share this article

A retail body says an easing of COVID-19 rules may still see shops short of staff.

Duncan Graham, managing director of Retail Excellence, was speaking as asymptomatic boosted close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case will no longer have to restrict movements under plans set to be approved by Cabinet.

While those in certain age groups with a positive antigen test will no longer have to get a PCR test to confirm the result.


And the isolation period for those who test positive is also to be set for everyone at seven days - regardless of their booster status.

But Mr Graham told The Hard Shoulder the age of many retail employees could be an issue.

"If you look at the retail setting, and the workforce that make up retail, a lot of them are younger people.

"The main benefits of this, of course, is for boosted people - and of course there's a lot of young people in retail who won't have been boosted yet.

"So [there's a] really clear need to get those people boosted as quickly as possible".

But he says members are struggling under the current rules.

"We were getting a number of calls from retailers across the country, struggling big time, in terms of keeping their stores open.

"And we really wanted to understand what the impact of this was.

"Half of the retailers that we surveyed said that around 20% of their staff were out at that point.

"If you extrapolate that across the whole retail industry, that amounts to getting on for 50,000 people.

"30% of respondents said they had been forced to close for a period of time due to absence, and nearly two-thirds of the respondents said this was having a serious impact on supply chains.

"So it was really difficult to get food on shelves as a result of the current restrictions."

'Positive news on the whole'

He says this situation was not tenable, and they welcome the easing set to be announced on Wednesday.

"To see it easing up and the announcement that hopefully will be made tomorrow is positive news on the whole."

Asked whether the new rules may lead to employees having to inadvertently reveal their vaccine status, he says companies should be pragmatic.

"Inevitably there are grey areas, inevitably there are difficulties that need to be overcome.

"But I think a pragmatic approach is called for in all cases.

"We've certainly had members talking to us about 'Can I ask whether somebody's been vaccinated or not?'

"And of course that answer to that question is you can't - you can't go down that route very easily.

"Our advice to members is, and has always been right throughout this pandemic, is take what is coming back from NPHET and from the Government and interpret it in the best way you possibly can within your organisation."

He adds that clarity from the Government would be welcome.

"We're clearly not going to be over this until we've seen the end of this current wave - and hopefully the back of COVID, let's hope for, this year.

"It is going to need a little bit of a pragmatic and responsible approach, and a bit of give and take I think.

"But further clarity from Government is always welcome on this sort of thing".

Main image: Shoppers walk along Dublin's Grafton Street in December 2021. Picture by: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo / Clodagh Kilcoyne

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Asymptomatic Boosted Close Contacts Close Contacts Duncan Graham Easing COVID-19 Rules Isolation Period PCR Test Retail Excellence The Hard Shoulder

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