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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# proposal
Frontline healthcare workers could have childcare provided in their homes
Dr Tony Holohan wrote to Simon Harris about the potential for “registered childcare workers [to] provide support” in a healthcare worker’s home.

A PROPOSAL BEFORE the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) could see healthcare workers on the frontline have childcare provided in their homes as the easing of restrictions begins.

Last week, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan wrote to Health Minister Simon Harris to tell him this would be reviewed as a “candidate measure” as part of its “consideration of the phased reduction of the social distancing measures which are currently in place”. 

Earlier this week, the HSE proposed to unions that where a healthcare worker was unable to secure childcare, they will be able to remain at home to mind their children while being paid. 

However, in a memo to staff yesterday, the HSE’s national director for human resources said that “in the first instance”, flexible working arrangements would be put in place to for the other parent/guardian/partner such as working from home or working adjusted hours.

“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,” the memo said. “There is no special paid leave available for Covid-19 caring arrangements during this time.”

Those working from home could be assigned different duties during this time period, the memo added.

If employees cannot work outside the home and cannot perform their current role remotely, the employee is still to be considered as actively on duty and available to work… Employers/managers are required to be flexible and innovative in terms of ensuring that employees remain as productive as possible during this time and this may include assigning work outside the employee’s usual core duties, i.e. potentially a new role.

Unions say the supports currently in place for healthcare workers – as with creches closed around the country they face difficulty in securing childcare – are wholly inadequate in the face of the current pressures being placed upon them.

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.

In his letter to Harris, Dr Holohan said the Department of Children and Youth Affairs “supported in-reach service where registered childcare workers provide support in an essential healthcare worker’s home”. 

NPHET is due to meet tomorrow morning before its latest recommendations are brought to Cabinet at 3pm. The Taoiseach is then due to address the public tomorrow evening.

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