How can I manage an employee who is refusing to wear a mask?

The wearing of face masks is recommended by Public Health, the WHO, and the Irish Government. The HSE provide information on who should wear face coverings, and for those who cannot wear them due to medical health reasons, should at least shield their mouth and nose with a visor. The advice would be to consult with high-risk category staff, if you have any at all, and ensure you understand their thoughts/concerns within the workplace. Seek their feedback to make necessary adjustments to the workplace. The control measures implemented by the company are not fixed and can be altered to people’s needs (i.e., some may feel a certain task is done too closely next to a colleague and this task could be revised). The company should be able to stand over its decisions in relation to control measures and ensure there is no more it can be doing to protect the employees’ health and safety.

 In terms of refusal to comply, it is important that you document occasions where this employee has been spoken to. It would be advised to invite him/her to a more formal setting if they continue to refuse (outline that to protect colleagues and visitors etc, the company have made face coverings a requirement for moving around the building or dealing with visitors, or full time).

 There are two primary pieces of legislation which provides an employer with the authority to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of employees, customers, and visitors. Section 8 of the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005 and Sec 43 of the 1947 Health Act provide strong onus on employers to do everything practical to ensure a safe place of work.

 This legislation protects the employer along with already existing Health & Safety policy which has taken the governmental guidance on board. If there are further breaches i.e., not complying, you will have no other choice but to invite the employee to an investigation/disciplinary meeting for a breach of company policy.

Have immigration permissions been extended further?

As per an announcement on the 22 December 2020, Immigration, and International Protection permissions to reside in the State that are due to expire between 21 January 2021 and 20 April 2021 will be automatically renewed by the Minister to the 20 April 2021. This is the sixth, and expected to be the final, extension of permissions implemented since the outset of the pandemic.

 The renewal of permission is on the same basis as the existing permission and the same conditions attach. Any permission which was renewed by the previous notices released by the INIS which therefore has a new expiry date between 21 January 2021 and 20 April 2021 is automatically renewed by the notice until 20 April 2021. 
See more here .

How do I select employees for lay-off/short time?

This is a significant procedural issue which follows the selection redundancy practices. Selection for redundancy needs to be fair and transparent. Part-time employees may not be selected before full-time employees, simply because they are part-time employees. Fixed term employees may not be selected before permanent employees simply because they are fixed-term employees. Selection can be based on LIFO (Last in first out) or based on Selection criteria such as knowledge, critical skills, business commitment and considerations experience etc. Process is to be carried out in a manner which is fair, objective, and consistent. The selection cannot be a means for an employer to filter the poor performers out of the business. It is important to note that whichever selection process is taken will set a company precedence for future lay-off/short time and redundancies.

Can an employee/s on Lay-off / Short-time claim redundancy?

Restrictions on certain redundancy rights under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest COVID-19 Act 2020 have been extended again until end of March 2021. As it currently stands, employees on lay-off or short-time will not be able to trigger a redundancy payment if the lay-off or short-time is due to the effects or measures required to be taken by the employer to comply with, or as a consequence of, the Government policy to reduce the spread of infection of COVID-19.

What are the key considerations for remote working?

Employees should identify a suitable space within their home for remote working. When identifying a suitable space consider:

  • Suitable light, heat, and ventilation to be able to work comfortably,
  • Keeping the workspace tidy,
  • Ensure the floor is clean, dry, and free from slip, trip and fall hazards,
  • Suitably located power sockets to avoid trailing cables and overloading of sockets, and internet access.

Identify what equipment is required for them to work temporarily from home and agree these items with the employee. Such equipment may include:

  • A headset if dealing with frequent phone calls,
  • IT equipment,
  • Work phone, and
  • Adequate stationery.

SFA has presented considerations for employers on Remote and Flexible Working which should be considered carefully. There is further detailed guidance and resources available from the Health and Safety Authority

Further advice and guidance on this can be sought from your HRP Group HR contact or email for further information.