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People working from home can return to offices 'on a phased basis' from next week

The move was part of the Government’s announcement this evening.

Image: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

PEOPLE WHO HAVE been recommended to work from home throughout most of the pandemic will be able to return to workplaces on a phased basis from next week.

The Taoiseach announced that most Covid-19 restrictions will lift from 6am tomorrow. This includes removing the recommendation that people work from home if possible.

The move has remained government advice for the vast majority of the pandemic. 

The government now recommends that people can return to workplaces “on a phased basis appropriate to each sector”. 

Clarifying the finer details on this, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that businesses would decide themselves on how to manage the return to workplaces between now and 28 February.

“We don’t think that should be proscribed by government. Every workplace is different,” he said.

Varadkar added that he expected the return to to be done in a “very sensible way” and said that while he is working on a bill to allow people to request the right to work from home, “loads of people are dying to get back to the office”.

“There’ll be lots of other people who will want to embrace hybrid-working, working part of the time from home and part of time from the office,” the Tánaiste said.

“And I want to encourage that, because one thing I’m not looking forward to is the return of the traffic, and if we can have people home-working and hybrid-working where possible, that’ll benefit everyone.”

Rates of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme were scheduled to reduce from 1 February, but the government also announced this evening that this has been delayed by a month for businesses impacted by restrictions introduced last month. 

The CEO of Ibec Danny McCoy said the eased measures “will mark an important next step towards recovery for many industries”. 

“While challenges remain, Ibec holds that greater personal responsibility for individuals, and autonomy for businesses in their office operations must be central to the government’s approach in managing the next phase as we progress towards a return to normality,” McCoy said in a statement.

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He said businesses will work to ensure a safe return to workplaces. 

Director of the Small Firms Association, Sven Spollen-Behrens, said a phased return to offices “will be a great boost to many businesses” struggling with remote working and businesses relying on trade from office workers. 

“While this is an important milestone to have reached, many small businesses will need government support until they fully get back on their feet,” Spollen-Behrens said.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ general secretary Patricia King said that although there is an “understandable desire” among most people to return to a level of normality, all employers should ensure that they continue to take the necessary steps to keep workplaces safe.

“Remote and flexible working must now become a mainstream feature of future working arrangements,” she added.

“We look forward to discussing all these matters in detail at the forthcoming Stakeholder Forum scheduled for early next week.”

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