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Here's the list of 'essential' workers who can still go to work

An updated list of essential retail services was published last night.

Liz Canavan, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach.
Liz Canavan, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach.
Image: RTÉ.ie

Updated Mar 28th 2020, 6:33 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS published its list of “essential” workers who can still go to work following the unprecedented restrictions introduced last night.

The list was published this evening about 20 hours after the announcement of further restrictions by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Varadkar introduced the emergency measures which came into effect from midnight following advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team. 

Those measures include the restriction on social gatherings of any number of people with anyone outside of an individual’s own household as well as the cocooning of everyone over the ages of 70 years old. 

The Taoiseach said that every person must work from home, but there are exceptions for  people in “essential” services. If it is not possible for those people to work from home they are permitted to travel to work

This includes those who work in essential retail services, a list of which were published last night by the government. 

Another list of non-retail essential services was not provided last night but has been published on this evening

At a briefing at Government Buildings this evening, Liz Canavan, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach, said that employers should notify employees if they are considered essential workers.  

The list published by the government contains specific examples of workers within the following industries:

1. Agriculture and Fishing

2. Manufacturing

3. Repair and installation of Machinery and Equipment

4. Electricity, Gas Water

5. Construction

6. Wholesale and Retail Trade

7. Transport Storage and Communication

8. Accommodation and Food Services

9. Information and Communications

10. Financial and legal activities

11. Professional, Scientific and Technical activities

12. Rental and Leasing Activities

13. Administrative and Support Services

14. Public Administration and Defence

15. Human health and social work activities

16. Community/Voluntary Services

Among the specific professions included in the listed services are:

Farmers, food and beverage manufacturers, utility workers, construction workers in essential health projects, critical road construction workers, transport workers, hotels or essential accommodation providers, news publishers, bank workers and those in car leasing. 

Other specific professions are listed in the government’s publication

Canavan acknowledged that there has been a delay in clarification about who are “essential workers”. 

“I know a lot of you have been waiting for a little bit of more clarification on essential workers, a lot of work and consideration has gone into categorising who were essential workers, and we are cognisant to the fact that gaps or issues may arise, but we will deal with them,” she said. 

All employees should work from home, if at all possible, and that’s the most important thing to remember. The purpose of the document, which we published on, is to provide guidance to employers and employees as to what constitutes an essential service, or workers cannot work from home and have no option but to travel to work. 

Canavan said employees should be told if they are considered essential workers: 

“Your employer should notify you that you are an essential employee or that you belong to a category of essential employees, and therefore you will be allowed to travel to and from work,” she said.

When traveling to and from work, you should at all times bring with you, either a work identification, or a letter from your employer indication you’re an essential worker, as well as some other form of identification.

“If you’re self employed a farmer or agricultural worker, or a member of the clergy, you should carry one form of identification with you at all times. If you’re a volunteer who’s working as part of the national community response. You’re permitted to travel for that purpose. For example, if you’re delivering food supplies or medicine to a person who was cocooned are vulnerable.

“The local government emergency response teams will coordinate that response at local level,” Canavan added.  


Earlier this week, the government had published another list of retail services that can remain open but this was tightened last night. 

The updated retail services to which workers can travel to are:

  1. Retail and wholesale sale of food, beverages and newspapers in non-specialised and specialised stores
  2. Retail sale of household consumer products necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences and businesses
  3. Pharmacies/chemists and retailers providing pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical or dispensing services
  4. Retail sale of selling medical and orthopaedic goods in specialised stores
  5. Fuel stations and heating fuel providers
  6. Retail sale of essential items for the health and welfare of animals, including animal feed and medicines, animal food, pet food and animal supplies including bedding
  7. Laundries and dry cleaners
  8. Banks, post offices and Credit Unions
  9. Retail sale of safety supply stores (work clothes, personal protective equipment, for example)

Some services previously listed as essential are now told to only offer emergency call-out or delivery services.

These are: 

  • opticians/optometrists
  • retailers involved in the repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bike repair and related facilities (tyre sales and repairs, for example)
  • hardware stores, builder’s merchants and stores that provide hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment, supplies and tools essential for gardening/farming/agriculture
  • retail sale of office products and services for individuals working from home and for businesses
  • retailers providing electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home.

Essential retail outlets must implement social distancing measures.

These include adequate distancing between customers and shop assistants, only letting small amounts of people in store, maintaining queue control and using online services where possible/appropriate.  

The restrictions are to last until Easter Sunday, 12 April but both Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris have said the new measures may continue for longer. 

In the Taoiseach’s speech last night, he advised people that they should only leave their homes if they are considered essential workers, if they are shopping for food or medicine or if they are attending medical appointments. 

They are also permitted to leave their home if they are providing essential care to a family member such as caring for an elderly relative, but Varadkar explicitly said social visits are not permitted. 

In terms of exercise, members of the public are allowed to take brief individual physical exercise within 2km of their locality.

With reporting by Orla Dwyer and Conor McCrave

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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