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Full return to offices won't be possible until 'next spring', says Varadkar

The Government was due to remove the guidance to ‘work from home where possible’ on Friday.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

Updated Oct 19th 2021, 6:00 PM

A FULL RETURN to workplaces may not be possible until next spring, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said today.

The public health advice for people to work from home where possible will remain in place beyond Friday 22 October, he confirmed at a government press conference earlier.

The Tánaiste also said the government will meet with trade unions and employers today to update the back-to-work guidance contained in the Work Safely Protocol.

Speaking this afternoon, the Tánaiste said that it’s still possible for employers to bring workers back to the office on a staggered basis.

However, he said that the National Public Health Emergency Team believes the “best advice” is that “whoever can work from home, should”.

“What going to do today is we’re going to meet as the Labour Employer Economic Forum — that’s the Government, unions and employers reps — and update the Work Safely Protocol,” he said. “So we’ll have that done in the next couple of days.

“Essentially, what we’re saying is that a staggered return to workplaces and the office is possible. So people can go back to the office for a specific business purpose — a meeting or training, for example.”

He added, “But the full return to offices as we knew them, that will be next spring.”

The union Fórsa welcomed the announcement that the approach to the return to offices will continue to be “staggered and phased”.

The union’s head of communications, Bernard Harbor said: “Remote working is working for most staff and employers, so there was no objective reason to accelerate the return to workplaces at a time when all the main Covid indicators are pointing the wrong way.”

‘Phased and cautious’

In a letter sent to the Government last night, NPHET said homeworking had played a “vital role” in containing the spread of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

“With the easing of social and economic restrictions, a majority of employees have already or will need to return to the workplace on an at least partial basis over the coming months,” the letter advised.

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However, it added, “This should continue to be phased and cautious and the NPHET continues to recommend that all who can work from home should continue to do so.”

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