On Friday 27 March 2020 the Government announced that, due to COVID-19, everyone in Ireland should stay at home until 12 April 2020 except in a limited number of situations. One of the exceptions is where an individual is considered an essential worker and needs to travel to and from work.
Workers in the categories of 'essential services' are permitted to leave their homes to "travel to and from work, or for the purposes of work, only where the work is an essential service and cannot be done from home".
The published list of essential services covers 16 industries (detailed below). Within each category, the Government has detailed in more specific terms the services it deems essential.
The list is not described as non-exhaustive and should be read as the complete account of essential services. However, the Government guidance does acknowledge that organisations that carry out an activity that is necessary for the continued provision of an essential service by another organisation, or that is part of an essential supply chain (including global supply chains), should continue to carry out that activity. While it is intended that any such roles are encompassed in the guidance, advice should be sought where an organisation cannot conclusively determine from to the list if it qualifies as one that provides an essential service.
The list of retail outlets that are considered essential services has been curtailed. Certain categories of retailers (such as opticians and hardware stores) previously classed as essential are now only permitted to offer an emergency call-out or delivery service. Restaurants can continue to provide takeaway and delivery services in line with previous guidance.
Where an organisation concludes that it provides an essential service, it should take the following steps in relation to its employees on foot of the new restrictions:
- Identify the employees (and sub-contractors/other forms of workers) that are critical to the provision of the essential service and notify them accordingly. This can be done by category of employee or by individual; it could also include all employees in the organisation.
- Identify the employees that can work remotely from home. Travel to work is only permissible if the work cannot be completed from home. Where some or all employees can work from home, they should be told that they must (continue to) do so.
- Identify the individuals that must travel to work to provide the essential service. Issue a letter to those employees that they can produce to the authorities on request that confirms their designation as an essential worker. While an appropriate form of letter has not been prescribed, we recommend it includes the name and role of the employee; the name and workplace address of the organization; and contact details for a senior member of management who can be contacted in the event of any queries. The employees should be told to carry ID, which can be produced in support of the letter.
- Continue to follow the latest public health guidance at all times. This includes ensuring that employees can perform their duties at a distance of at least two metres from any other employee, customer or other individual. Employers should also facilitate employees in enforcing physical distancing measures at their place of work where required, for example directing and proving guidance/practical assistance to employees in managing customer que control.
Where an employer is not engaged in the provision of an essential service, they have until 6pm on Monday 30 March to wind down their activities in an orderly way. However, it is accepted that a longer wind-down period will be needed in some exceptional circumstances, for example in complex manufacturing processes or very large construction projects.
As with all COVID-19 Government instructions, the above detailed guidance will be kept under ongoing review.