Public service staff urged to only attend workplace where essential

Department asks managers to consider flexible working or redeploying personnel

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe: updated guidelines to public service employers were issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on Friday. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe: updated guidelines to public service employers were issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on Friday. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Public service staff should only work in their traditional locations in cases where their organisations consider it essential to have personnel on site, new official Government guidance to managers has urged.

The updated guidelines to public service employers issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on Friday said that all employees who could work from home should continue to do so.

“Only where organisations deem it essential that people need to attend the workplace should they work on site. This in line with the public health guidance in the Taoiseach’s statement of 24 March to avoid all non-essential journeys and limit social interactions.”

“Where employees do not have access to remote working employers should explore every possible avenue of making a suitable arrangement. Employers should continue to explore opportunities for work which can be performed at home, both inside and outside the organisation, as critical services come under increasing pressure.”

The new guidelines said that where there were limited opportunities for remote working in an employee’s current role, organisations should seek to identify any staff suitable to be redeployed elsewhere under the Government’s new temporary assignment scheme.

“It is a matter for each organisation’s senior leadership team to determine which services are currently essential to business continuity in the context of its organisational business continuity plan, and to identify specific individuals (including contingency for Covid-19 illness/back-up) required to manage the delivery of these services.”

The updated guidance said there was no special paid leave available to public service staff to care for children or others during the current Covid-19 crisis.

“All forms of flexible working must be considered including working from home where possible and/or working adjusted hours to facilitate employees to balance work and caring responsibilities. Employers should be looking at alternative arrangements eg staggering hours, wider opening hours including weekend work, looking at temporary assignment etc. This will be a standard approach across the entire public sector.”

‘As productive as possible’

The new guidance said that where a person could not work outside the home and could not perform their current role, he or she would still 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 ie potentially a new role, and will be paid, provided they are available for work. 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 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.”

Public service managers were told earlier this month by the Department of Public Expenditure that the virus, also known as Covid-19, was “potentially the most significant crisis faced by our country for many years”.

“Our primary focus in the civil and public service is to support the health and wellbeing of all our citizens.”

It said public service employees “may be asked on a temporary basis to work in a different role, or even for a different organisation in order to meet critical work needs”.