Taoiseach does not expect Covid-19 vaccination to be required for return to offices

Comments come amid suggestions a general return to workplaces may start in September

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government doesn’t expect to require workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in guidelines for a return to offices. File photograph: Getty Images

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government doesn’t expect to require workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in guidelines for a return to offices. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he does not expect workers will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when the Government draws-up guidelines for a return to offices.

Mr Martin’s comments come amid reports that some technology companies internationally have said staff must be vaccinated before they come back to the workplace.

Facebook will be requiring anyone going to work at any of its US campuses to be vaccinated and Google has also said employees who return to the company’s offices must be inoculated.

There have been suggestions from the Government that a gradual general return to workplaces could start in September, when the vast majority of adults are expected to be inoculated.

Mr Martin said it was a “challenging subject” but the workplace is about “access to livelihoods”, which was “a very fundamental thing”. He said he could understand if vaccination was a requirement in a health environment where patients are being treated.

But he said the Government would be “very cautious” in linking it to access to the workplace and would “if at all possible avoid that type of distinction”.

Robust debate

Mr Martin said Ireland had gone about vaccination “in a voluntary way”.

“We’ve encouraged people to be vaccinated; the approach that we have taken has been the correct approach,” he said.

“We have higher vaccination rates than almost every other country in Europe. We didn’t do it by compulsion. We didn’t do it by law or saying we have to. We did it by encouraging people, by science, by good, healthy robust debate in a democracy. That’s my sense of it.”

Asked if he would discourage employers from enforcing full-vaccination requirements, he said: “We are encouraging people to be vaccinated. But in terms of the workplace generally outside of specific environments, I think we have to be extremely careful as a society in terms of restricting people’s access to earn a wage to get them through the week.”

Mr Martin said the Government would take advice on whether the 2m social distancing rule can be eased to facilitate a return to workplaces.

In announcing Facebook’s requirement for US workers attending its campuses to be vaccinated, senior executive Lori Goler said: “How we implement this policy for our international offices will depend on local conditions and regulations when we open”.

Government guidance

A spokeswoman said Facebook does not have an update in relation to Ireland “as our return to office plans are dependent on government guidance”.

She said “at the moment our policy is to work from home.”

Google also announced a requirement for employees who return to the company’s offices to be vaccinated in a note from Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to employees on Wednesday.

RTÉ reported that Google Ireland had nothing to add to the plan but highlighted how the communication from Mr Pichai said the policy would “vary according to local conditions and regulations” and would only apply in places where vaccines are widely available.

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