Prioritise safety of staff and customers to ensure sustainable reopening, says Chambers Ireland

Chambers Ireland, the voice of Irish business, has said it welcomes the next phase of reopening the Irish economy and society and has encouraged businesses to take all reasonable steps in prioritising the safety of staff and customers in the workplace.

It said the vaccination programme had been “largely successful” but the relatively high level of transmission of the Delta variant would require businesses to continue to be proactive in their risk mitigation measures as more premises reopen and workers begin to return to an office-based environment.

The group has also reacted positively to Minister Michael McGrath’s commitment that the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme and Pandemic Unemployment Payment will remain in place, stating that many businesses will not have a clear picture of their trading health until 2022.

According to Chief Executive of Chambers Ireland, Ian Talbot:

“The largely successful rollout of the vaccination programme has provided an important window of opportunity to further reopen society and the economy. This will be welcome news for many businesses that have been limited to partial or even no trading during these extremely challenging 18 months.

“However, we must recognise that continued effort will be needed to secure the collective gains that we have made. In a work context, that means businesses must be proactive in assessing and mitigating against the specific risks to their customers and workforce. Given the nature of transmission, adequate ventilation should be seen as a fundamental component of this approach.

“Upon reopening, the issue of reduced capacity in offices will have to be considered with accompanying flexible and remote working policies for staff who choose a fully remote or hybrid style of working. This will carry costs and challenges with significant management upskilling required to accommodate the shift. The National Training Fund should assist businesses in this.

“Government will also need to focus on their response to the changes in the labour market that have been accelerated by the coronavirus crisis. Skills constraints are hitting many sectors beyond hospitality, requiring significant efforts in the upcoming budget to facilitate the upskilling of those in employment, and those seeking employment.

“The commitment from government to maintain economic supports for those sectors that continue to be impacted by the virus was needed and is very welcome. These supports will remain essential for employees to return to work and businesses to reopen safely, with significant uncertainty expected into 2022 and beyond.”

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