How to prepare your business for reopening post-COVID-19

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Current government COVID-19 restrictions are scheduled to end on May 5th.

If your business is in a position to resume trading after May 5th, now is the time to put plans in place to ensure a smooth return to the workplace.

Prioritising health and safety

It’s understandable that people will be anxious for some time to come regarding personal health, which is why you’ll have to prioritise the health & safety of your returning employees.

Workplace conditions will also have to comply with a more exacting standard. Implementing distancing measures as we transition out of the crisis on a phased basis will also be necessary.

Phased return to work

Phasing employees back in small groups will make complying with distancing measures easier.

Identifying which employees are most essential to have back in the workplace will be your first task. These essential employees could be managers or those who perform critical functions.

Leaving a two-week gap between each cohort of returning employees will allow you to manage the return to work and identify any issues before the workplace returns to capacity.

Risks of discrimination

Employees who are not permitted to return to work on medical grounds could potentially make discrimination claims. This is a risk you need to consider.

On the other hand, high-risk employees should not return to the workplace until it’s safe for them to do so.

You may decide to conduct a medically-based or risk-based reopening (using factors such as age or underlying health conditions). If you do, explore the possibility of providing employees with reasonable accommodations to reduce the risk of discrimination claims.

High-risk employees

Some employees may be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, such as those with underlying medical conditions. They should only return to the office when it’s 100% safe for them to do so.

It’s also understandable if returning employees suffer from increased anxiety or stress associated with the return to work, so it’s important to monitor their behaviour.

Offer support (through an EAP if possible), and be ready to engage in discussions with individual employees about how to address their concerns.

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Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

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Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

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David Begg

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David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.