Supporting our clients is a key priority and we are working hard to reduce the level of disruption due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus.
FAQ for Public Service Employers during COVID-19
1. Attendance in the workplace/office during COVID-19?
Following the Taoiseach’s announcement on 27th March 2020, everyone must stay at home in all circumstances until 12th April 2020, unless they meet certain criteria,one of which is for the purposes of work for an essential service that cannot be done from home. Only essential workers are now present in the physical workplace. Employees who are told to stay at home should be facilitated to workfrom home to the maximum extent possible.
2. Should employees who are more at risk for serious illness from COVID-19 attend the workplace?
Essential workers in the at risk category need to take extra precautions to protect themselves from coronavirus. Information in relation to these measures are available from the HSE. This advice is currently in place until 12th April however this date will be continuously reviewed. Advice in relation to those who are considered a key / essential worker can be found on the following website Gov.ie/List of Essential Services
Employers will have been working to prioritise and facilitate this group in terms of flexible working arrangements, including working remotely.
Where working remotely is not possible, if the employee is at home, and is not ill, they are to be considered available for work including temporary assignment of work outside their usual core duties / a new role as required by the Public Service.
3. What to do if an employee is identified as being extremely medically vulnerable and is advised to cocoon?
Employers should advise employees to self-declare if they believe that they are extremely medically vulnerable and are advised to cocoon and should be facilitated to work from home to the maximum extent possible.
If an employer is unsure whether or not an employee falls into the extremely medically vulnerable category, advice can be sought from the Occupational Health Service associated with their organisation.
4. What to do if an employee becomes unwell in the
workplace showing symptoms of COVID-19?
The health and wellbeing of our employees is of utmost importance. These guidelines should read in conjunction with HSE advice which is being updated on an ongoing basis.
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with symptoms such as cough, fever, difficulty breathing, the unwell person should be sent home to self-isolate and advised to contact their GP.
If going home is not immediately possible, then the person should be moved to a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as an office, to protect both the employee’s privacy and the welfare of other employees. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation.
Arrangements should be made for cleaning of all surfaces the person has come into contact with. Employers should refer in the first instance to the HPSC Website for guidance. As an additional resource, further tips and advice can be found on the Centers for Disease Control Website.
5. What happens if a colleague is diagnosed with COVID-19?The HSE will inform any employees via the contact tracing process who have come into close contact with a diagnosed case. The HSE will contact all relevant persons where a diagnosis of COVID-19 is made. The instructions of the HSE should be followed and employee confidentiality is essential at all times.
2. Flexible working arrangements during COVID-19
1. What flexible working arrangements are available during COVID-19?
Employees should follow any guidance issued by their organisation in relation to home working. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has produced guidance for temporary home working arrangements during COVID-19. The Data Protection Commission have also issued useful guidance on protecting personal data when working remotely .
Where workplace attendance has been deemed essential, employers should implement arrangements which support segregation of the workforce and social distancing measures. For example, this could include flexible shifts, staggered hours, longer opening hours and weekend working.
2. What if an employee does not have the facility to work from home?
3. How should flexi-time operate during the period of COVID-19?
3. Covid 19 - Special Leave with Pay Arrangements
1. When does special leave with pay apply during the COVID-19 crisis?
Special leave with pay should only apply when an employee is advised to selfisolate and is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or had a positive test. Medical or
HSE advice should be followed. Special leave with pay for COVID-19 is being used
in place of sick pay. Employees are not entitled to days in lieu of bank holidays
whilst in receipt of special leave with pay.
The HSE sets out the latest criteria for self-isolation at: HSE Conditions
2. Should absence due to COVID-19 illness be recorded as special leave with pay or sick leave?
3. How should advice of the need to self-isolate be recorded?
The employer should clearly communicate to employees the information required to be provided and the notification process. See guidance at the end of this document for more details on notification requirements.
Self-declarations should be retained on the individual’s personnel file and should be subject to audit. For employers within the NSSO customer group the notification process will include the requirement that the employee, on return to work, completes a special leave with pay application on the PeoplePoint system, which must then be approved by their manager. The manager should ensure that this is complied with.
4 See Appendix 6 for example of self-declaration form
4. An employee is on special leave with pay, can they claim the DEASP (5) Illness Benefit for COVID-19?
5 DEASP is the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
5. What happens if, after the period of self-isolation, an employee does not have the COVID-19 virus?
6. What if an employee does not have COVID-19 but has another illness?
7. What is the process for a return to the workplace post having had COVID-19 infection?
Please note that this FAQ relates to a return to work in the workplace. These arrangements may not preclude employees from returning to work at home at an earlier stage if this is feasible, depending on the situation of each case. Note: Sectors may need to refer to their own arrangements as necessary where these exist.
The Civil Service CMO advises that in confirmed COVID-19 infection, an employee needs to be 14 days post onset of symptoms and also 5 days fever free (which may run concurrently) before returning to the workplace. Please note that the 14 days is from onset of symptoms and not the date of receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.
Employees should be asked by their manager to complete a self-declaration form (see Appendix 6 for a sample form). Where at all possible, this should be accompanied by a medical certificate, stating the date of fitness to return to work. Managers should be mindful of confidentiality and should also alert the employee to any follow up actions that are required on their return to work.
Self-declarations and any accompanying certification should be forwarded by managers to and retained by Local HR on the individual’s personnel file and should be subject to audit. For the NSSO customer group employees should be advised not to forward these forms to the NSSO but rather to their organisation.
4. Leave and Other Arrangements during COVID-19
1. Is special leave with pay available for caring responsibilities?
If the person cannot work outside the home and cannot perform their current role remotely, the employee is still to be considered as actively on duty and available to work. Employers need to be flexible and innovative in terms of ensuring that their employees remain as productive as possible during this time. If the employer cannot assign work to them remotely, then the employee can/will be assigned work outside of their usual core duties i.e. potentially a new role. This should be continuously reviewed by management to ensure that employees are placed where they are most needed to deliver critical services. There will be temporary assignments in the public sector under the principle of one Public Service to deal with this crisis. What this means is that is any employee can be assigned work outside their usual core duties/a new role as required by the Public Service.
Any employee who wishes to avail of existing leave allowances during this time is entitled to have such requests considered by their employer, as always, including parental leave, annual leave etc
2.What arrangements are in place for childcare for essential healthcare workers?
In the first instance, flexible working arrangements will be put in place for the other parent/ guardian/partner such as working from home or working adjusted hours/ shifts. Though not anticipated, in the event that flexible arrangements do not allow the essential healthcare worker to attend work it will be dealt with on a case by case basis.
3. Living with high risk individuals – should employees be granted special leave with pay?
Please refer to the HSE advice on the HSE Website.
There are other flexible working options that employers can offer to employees in addition to home working arrangements e.g. staggered hours, wider opening hours. These measures can help facilitate segregation of the workforce and social distancing as well as support employees in managing caring responsibilities at home (including facilitating shared caring arrangements).
As always, any employee who is seeking to avail of existing leave allowances during this time is entitled to have such requests considered by their employer including annual leave, carer’s leave, etc.
4. Requests to cancel or reschedule pre-booked leave (e.g. parental or annual leave)
5. Can Shorter Working Year be rescheduled/cancelled during the COVID-19 crisis period?
6. How should probation be managed during COVID-19?
A flexible and pragmatic approach to the management of probation for both new entrants and promotions should be adopted at this time. If possible and practical, the assessment of a probationer’s performance should continue. This can take place remotely. For those staff whose probation process continues, managers should ensure that they have clearly defined objectives and duties that continue to be evaluated on an ongoing basis, as part of the usual probationary process. Managers should continue to support and develop these individuals in their roles.
If in exceptional circumstances it is not possible to proceed with the probation process it may be paused. A probationary period which has been paused will be resumed when the probationer returns to their original role. If a probation process is to be paused, local HR Units should formally and clearly communicate this to these individuals from the outset.
7. Can public sector employees on unpaid leave (e.g. parental leave etc.) claim the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment?
5. Appendix to FAQ
Appendix 2: Guidance for Public Service employees in the instance that they become unwell in the workplace showing symptoms of COVID-19
If, in the course of your working day, you experience symptoms associated with COVID-19 (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, fever or chills), you should immediately:
1. Report your health concerns, preferably by telephone or email, to your manager. If your manager is unavailable, contact your HR unit.
2. You will be asked to isolate yourself from your colleagues in the first instance – in most circumstances this will mean going home; however, where this is not immediately possible then you should move to a designated space away from colleagues until transport home can be arranged. If possible arrange for someone in your household to collect you rather than using public transport or a taxi – this is for your own welfare as well as the welfare of others. If you must use the latter options practice good hygiene etiquette to limit any potential spread of the virus.
3. Avoid engaging in any direct contact with colleagues and practice good hygiene etiquette as you make your exit.
4. You should immediately contact your GP for further advice.
5. You must call your manager to let them know the outcome of the medical advice. This advice will inform your next steps.
6. If you are advised by your GP that you are well enough to continue working you should do so.
7. If you are required to self-isolate, you should follow all HSE guidelines and keep your manager/HR rep informed, adhering to your organisation’s procedures.
Appendix 3: Guidance for managers in the instance that an employee becomes unwell in the workplace showing symptoms of COVID-19
If you are notified by an employee that they are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, please do the following:
1. Reassure the employee that their health and safety and that of their colleagues is the primary concern.
2. Advise the employee to isolate themselves from colleagues immediately – ideally they should return home; however, where this is not immediately possible they should move to a designated private space away from colleagues until transport home can be arranged. If possible they should arrange for someone in their household to collect them rather than using public transport or a taxis.
3. Advise the employee that they must call their GP for advice. Advise the employee to call you straight away with the outcome of this advice – you should provide them with your phone number if they don’t already have it.
4. Ask the employee about their movements around the building in order to identify areas which may require cleaning.
5. Notify HR as soon as practically possible.
6. Contact Facilities Management and request that the employee’s workstation and any other relevant areas be cleaned as soon as possible.
7. Await the update from the employee concerned, but do not discuss the case with other colleagues at this stage in order to protect dignity and confidentiality.
Appendix 4: Guidance for Public Service employees in relation to COVID-19 selfisolation and restricted movement notifications
1. Telephone your manager (6) before 10am on the first day of isolation/restricting your movements to update them on the situation.
2. If you are advised to self-isolate/restrict your movements you will be required to give your manager the following information:
a. Date of commencement and number of days advised to selfisolate/restrict movements
b. Advice received from:
Other (you will be required to specify what that is) .
3. If you have been advised to restrict your movements as a precaution but you are well, you will be asked to work from home.
4. Please note that Public Service employees cannot claim DEASP COVID19 illness benefit in cases where they are receiving special leave with pay. Any claim for DEASP COVID-19 illness benefit whilst on special leave with pay will be treated as a disciplinary matter.
5. You may be asked to sign a self-declaration on return to work, including written confirmation of the above details.
6. By applying for special leave with pay, you agree that in the event of noncompliance with the provisions of special leave with pay (including the requirement to provide bona fide (7) confirmation of self-isolation/ /diagnosis/restricting your movements for COVID-19) existing procedures, including disciplinary measures may be invoked.
(6) If your manager is not available, please contact another manager in your area or your HR team. In rare situations where that is not possible, make a note of the date and times of call made and continue to try to contact your managers until contact is made.
(7) Bona fide in relation to a representation or communication means in good faith and well founded in fact. The employer reserves the right to request further confirmation.
Appendix 5: Guidance for managers when notified of COVID-19 self-isolation or restricted movement
2. If the employee has been notified to self-isolate and is not well enough to work, the manager should ask the employee the questions below. The manager should take note of the details provided. The arrangements for the recording of this will vary based on each organisation’s payroll/HR facilities.
3. . Questions:
a. Date of commencement and number of days advised to self-isolate
b. Advice received from:
Other (you will be required to specify what that is)
4. Managers should make employees aware of the need to stay in regular contact and advise them of any employee assistance programmes available to them.
5. Managers should alert the employee to any follow up actions that are required on their return to work (for example, self-declarations).
We appreciate your flexibility and support during this unprecedented and unique situation.
Take Care & Stay Safe
Government of Ireland key updates: