Coronavirus: HSE urges Government to prioritise childcare for health workers

HSE and Government understood to be exploring stay-at-home childminding payment

The HSE has urged the Government to introduce measures to prioritise childcare arrangements to allow health workers to do their jobs during the current coronavirus crisis, the country’s largest public service union has said .

Fórsa said the HSE had informed unions of its recommendations to the Department of Health and the Department Public Expenditure during a teleconference on Thursday.

Fórsa said that it and other unions had stressed the need for supports to ensure health staff could continue to spearhead the State’s effort to tackle the crisis.

The HSE told them ( the health service trade unions) “that political leaders supported this approach, and said unions should expect an update this morning (Friday).”


The Irish Times reported on Friday that the HSE was understood to be exploring with the Government the potential of a stay-at-home childminding payment for the partners of healthcare workers to facilitate them going to work following the closure of schools and crèches.


There are concerns on all sides that health care workers – who will be key to tackling the outbreak – could be forced to stay away from work to look after children .

The HSE’s idea of a special payment for partners to mind children put forward at the meeting was, it is understood, not greeted enthusiastically by a number of unions who instead called for emergency childcare services to be provided for key health workers .

The HSE said last night: “To ensure lines of communication are clear and kept open, the HSE have set up regular teleconferences with all union representative groups. “

“We continue to keep unions informed of all confirmed updates and possibilities being explored. “

“In the course of these teleconferences, the HSE has and will continue to explore possibilities that may or may not become actions in support of our services.”

“At this time, we wish to reiterate that any and all efforts are being made by the HSE to ensure that staff, patients and the general public are protected and supported, and intend to continue to work with the unions in this regard during this time.”

Controversial proposals

Fórsa said unions had also again urged the HSE to drop controversial proposals to ban industrial action from its coronavirus guidance.

The union said that earlier this week the Minister for Health Simon Harris has described the coronavirus, also known as, Covid-19 response of health service unions as "amazing," . It said criticisms of unions for rejecting a ban on industrial action as unfair.

“During the conference call, Fórsa also urged management to remove the clause in its advice that relates to outsourcing, saying it was irrelevant to any need for redeployment that may arise.”

Fórsa’s head of health, Éamonn Donnelly, said attempts to ban industrial action outright were unnecessary. “Health staff and their unions are cooperating fully with the Covid-19 effort and a blanket ban on industrial action is totally unnecessary. There is no question of any industrial action impeding our ability to deal with the emergency,” he said.

Separately, the Government issued new guidance on civil and public service working arrangements yesterday (Thursday) evening on foot of its announcement of school closures and other radical measures to deal with the Covid-19 public health crisis.

The guidance says staff redeployment across the civil and public services could be required to ensure the maintenance of essential services, and also calls for the reassignment of staff within organisations to prioritise the most critical services. It addresses the situation of staff with childcare difficulties caused by the closure of schools and crèches, and says employers should consider extending and staggering opening hours in response to this. It also reiterates existing advice on self-isolation.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent