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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
on the frontline

HSE tells unions that where healthcare workers can't secure childcare, they can remain at home with pay

Previous proposals to support healthcare workers with childcare provision had been described as inadequate by unions.

HEALTHCARE WORKERS UNABLE to find childcare will be able to remain at home to mind their children while being paid, unions have been told today.

Healthcare workers on the frontline have faced difficulty in securing childcare during the Covid-19 outbreak, as restrictions in place have meant that creches across the country have closed.

Unions have been calling on the government and HSE to provide concrete solutions that will address this issue. 

In a teleconference today, it’s understood the HSE offered a proposal to unions that in cases where healthcare workers were unable to find childcare, they would be able to stay at home while still receiving their salary.

Unions had labelled previous government proposals to support healthcare workers with childcare provision as inadequate.

Last week, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said that previous proposals put forward by the government “actively discriminates” against single parents and will not help the vast majority of nurses.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had revealed a plan the day before to give paid leave to the partners of healthcare workers if their partners work in the public sector – but not in the health sector.

The INMO levelled strong criticism at the proposal, pointing out that many nurses and midwives are lone parents, have partners who are also working on the frontline or do not have partners who are in the public sector. 

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, described it as a “surprisingly old-fashioned concept of family needs”. 

In a statement to this evening, the HSE said: “The HSE’s position remains that it intends to work collaboratively with staff, to be as flexible as possible to ensure that issues relating to supporting child care arrangements are balanced with our responsibilities to provide critical health services during this pandemic. Our overriding goal is to ensure flexibility and creativity in working with staff and managers in this regard.”

In revised guidance on working arrangements for healthcare workers today, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said “flexible working arrangements” would be offered.

It said: “In circumstances where one parent/guardian/partner is an essential healthcare worker, the other parent/guardian/partner will be supported by their public sector employer to remain at home to care for the child(ren) so as to ensure that the essential healthcare worker is able to go to work.

In the first instance, flexible working arrangements will be put in place for the other parent/ guardian/partner such as working from home or working adjusted hours/ shifts. Though not anticipated, in the event that flexible arrangements do not allow the essential healthcare worker to attend work it will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

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