The global pandemic that sent Ireland into lockdown is now set to be eased, with a complete return to work envisaged in five stages. The emphasis continues to be on containing the virus and the Irish government has stated that for all phases, remote working will continue for all that can do so. Also, should the infection flare up again in any stage of the easing of restrictions, a return to stricter measures will be re-imposed.
Employers are cautioned to stay safe and healthy by:
- Keeping the workplace safe and clean
- Providing training on new work practices and hygiene
- Making sure employees know how to reduce the risk of infection
- Making sure customers are safe
Employees are charged with:
- Participating in training on new work practices and hygiene
- Being aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID 19
- Monitoring one’s own well being
- Reporting to managers if symptoms develop at work
Gradual business reopening will happen in five stages, beginning on the 18th May
Phase One 18th May: A return of outdoor workers and reopening of some physical retail outlets.
The government plans to allow some businesses to reopen their doors. Among them are workers whose jobs are outdoors and can maintain social distance within their work environment. This includes construction workers and gardeners. Also, retail outlets that operate outdoors can reopen. These include garden shops, hardware stores, and farmers’ markets. Shops that sell IT equipment and stationery can also resume operations, including those that handle bike repairs, opticians, phone repairs, and electricians.
Phase 2 8th June: Limited return to onsite working subject to compliance capability
The second phase allows workers who can maintain a distance of two metres in their workspaces to resume work. Small marts can also start operating as long as the owner can limit interactions between staff and customers. Retailers should ensure everyone visiting their premises maintains physical distancing. They can also extend their opening hours and allow customers to shop in small groups to minimise interactions.
Phase 3 29th June: Return to low-interaction work
In Phase three companies will still rely on remote employees for most operations with some limited interoffice interactions allowed. Non-essential retail shops like boutiques will also start reopening. However, they have to adhere to the required number of staff and customers per square metre to ensure social distancing. Unfortunately, the directive is only applicable to businesses with street-level entrance and exits. Therefore, companies that operate in enclosed shopping centres will have to wait longer.
Phase 4 20th July: Partial Return to Work and Reopening of High-Risk Services.
From 20th July, employees who cannot work from home can return to work. However, the government will continue to insist on remote work for non-essential personnel and remote workers should carry out any services that can be done remotely to minimise interactions. Barbers and hairdressers can also reopen their shops despite the direct physical contact with their customers. Hotels can also resume their activities but hotel bars must remain shut.
Phase 5 10th August: Phased return to work across all sectors
During the final stage of the plan high-risk companies, which cannot maintain social distance due to the nature of work, will be permitted to resume activities. However, the organisations will be expected to implement measures to reduce risk in the workspaces. Enclosed shopping centres will also re-open, with workers and patrons required to maintain physical distance. The government will also loosen restrictions for direct contact services.
The Government has put in place a wide range of financial supports available through your Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland, Microfinance Ireland and other agencies to help with cash flow, payroll, working capital and long term investment – For example:
Reduction and breaks in commercial rates: Many businesses that have had to close due to public health requirements can receive a waiver in commercial rates for three months starting from 27th March.
Restart Fund - Micro and small businesses can avail of a €10,000 restart grant which provides small firms with income support and liquidity supports.
Increased credit support for SMEs: The government operating through the SME credit support, is increasing the funds available for borrowing from microfinance along with a reduction in interest rates. SMEs can access credit of up to €50,000 with an interest waiver of six months.
Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund: Medium and large enterprises can receive support to deal with COVID-19 through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. The fund will spend €2 billion in large enterprises to accelerate their recovery and put them back on the road to recovery.
Local Enterprise Initiatives. Where businesses need to update their models, employers can avail of Ireland’s 31 Local Enterprise Offices and other relevant state agencies which provide support such as Mentoring - An initiative which helps businesses identify immediate challenges and solutions by having business experts work alongside business owners and managers providing practical, useful advise and guidance.
If you need any assistance in managing your payroll service during the COVID-19 pandemic visit us at Paycheck Plus. We offer outsourced payroll services to various businesses, and we will be happy to help you stay on top of your payroll.