Varadkar warns against pressure on staff to return to workplace

Vigilance required as builders and pupils go back while cases still high, Tánaiste says

Construction workers return to an apartment block site in Finglas after some  Level-5 restrictions were lifted. Photograph: Colin Keegan

Construction workers return to an apartment block site in Finglas after some Level-5 restrictions were lifted. Photograph: Colin Keegan

 

Employers should not be pressuring staff to return to the workplace, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar has said.

Appealing for anyone who can work from home to continue to do so, he said: “There is clear evidence that some people are drifting back to the office or the workplace, and new data from the CSO [Central Statistics Office] this week shows that more people are moving beyond 10km of their homes.

“I particularly want to remind employers that staff members should not be pressurised to return to work. Daily case numbers remain high, as do the numbers in ICU.”

Mr Varadkar said that with thousands of construction workers returning to work and pupils to school, vigilance was required. He also noted the easing of various restrictions such as allowing two households to meet outdoors and the increase in the travel distance limit.

“With this increase in movement, employers and their staff should remember there is no change to the official advice to continue to work from home if at all possible,” he said.

‘Effective tools’

“With daily new cases still in the mid-hundreds, there remains a high risk of new outbreaks occurring if large numbers of people return to the workplace.”

Mr Varadkar said: “Working from home has played a huge part in containing Covid-19. It will be one of the most effective tools as we enter the next stage.

“I know a lot of people are tired of working from home and are keen to see colleagues again, but we have to stick with this for a few more months.”

Figures from the Department of Social Protection show that construction workers recorded the highest level of pandemic support payment cancellations this week as the sector gears up for a gradual return to activity.

On Monday, the department said just over 1,500 people in construction had closed their pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) claims while the overall number of recipients fell by 15,776 compared to last week.

PUP claims

This week, the cost of the scheme administered to 421,373 people was €125.5 million but all sectors now have fewer people receiving the money, a reflection of increasing numbers returning to work.

The construction sector saw its recipients decrease from 52,723 last week to 50,169 this week.

Over the last seven days, 7,327 people closed their PUP claims, with 5,966 of them stating they were returning to work.

Dublin is the county with the highest number of current recipients at 134,417, followed by Cork (42,391) and Galway (22,774).

The sector with the highest number of people receiving PUP this week is accommodation and food service (102,405), followed by the wholesale and retail trades (67,990) and construction (50,169).

However, accommodation and food service activities have registered 3,753 fewer recipients this week.