Covid-19: Advice to Fórsa members (updated Monday 6th April )

This information was first published to forsa.ie on Sunday 15th March. Updated on Monday 6th April at 09:30hrs.

Fórsa’s main phone line (01 817 1500) is now open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Alternatively members can use the Contact Us page on the Fórsa website to submit queries directly to the relevant division within Fórsa and this remains the most efficient way to access advice directly.

CONCERNED FOR YOUR HEALTH?

ADVICE TO HEALTH WORKERS

All of us in Fórsa and across the nation are hugely grateful to the large number of health and welfare staff, of all grades, whose job might put them in contact with people who have the coronavirus. This advice is based on HSE occupational health guidelines. The HSE has also issued advice to health workers on the management of close and casual  contact with the coronavirus in health service settings. Read more about that HERE.

REPORTING FOR WORK

Reporting for work: General

Following the Government’s ‘stay at home’ announcement of Friday 27th March, Fórsa is now advising members to stay away from workplaces on public health grounds unless their employer has told them they need to attend work. This is a change to previous advice to go in to work unless told otherwise by your line manager or HR department.

You should not attend work if:

  • You have been told not to attend work by your manager or HR department
  • Remote working arrangements have been put in place, and you have been told to work at home by your manager or HR department
  • You have a medical reason for not attending work
  • You are self-isolating on medical or HSE advice.

Civil and public servants who are not attending work for approved coronavirus-related reasons – or on medical advice – will receive basic pay including fixed allowances. Coronavirus-related sick leave will not be counted as part of the employee’s sick leave record, so long as they have medical or HSE confirmation of the need to self-isolate. But you must follow the guidelines published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

If you have followed Fórsa/DPER advice and still encounter problems with your line manager or HR department, you should contact the union HERE.

Reporting for work: Pregnant women reporting for work

The HSE has advised pregnant women to take extra care. If you are pregnant and concerned about attending work, you should phone your doctor for medical advice before attending work. Please don’t attend the doctor’s surgery unless specifically advised to do so.

You should also advise your line manager or HR department that you are doing this. The most recent official guidelines include advice on contacting work when seeking medical advice, which is available HERE. Note that agreed HSE guidelines say pregnant staff will be transferred to non-contact roles.

Current HSE occupational health advice says management has a responsibility to redeploy pregnant staff from direct contact with people with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 if requested. The same advice says pregnant staff who have said they want to be redeployed cannot be rostered to work with coronavirus patients.

Reporting for work: ‘Vulnerable groups’

If you are in vulnerable group (ie, if you are over 60 or have a long-term medical condition like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure), you should phone your doctor for medical advice before attending work. Please don’t attend the doctor’s surgery unless specifically advised to do so.

You should also advise your line manager or HR department that you are doing this. The most recent official guidelines include advice on contacting work when seeking medical advice, which is available HERE.

Current HSE occupational health advice says management has a responsibility to redeploy medically vulnerable staff from direct contact with people with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 if requested. The same advice says medically vulnerable staff who have said they want to be redeployed cannot be rostered to work with coronavirus patients.

Reporting for work: Members who’ve recently recovered from a critical illness

If you’ve recently recovered from a critical illness, have recently been signed fit for work, but are concerned that you might be particularly vulnerable to the virus, you should phone your doctor for medical advice before attending work. Please don’t attend the doctor’s surgery unless specifically advised to do so.

You should also advise your line manager or HR department that you are doing this. The most recent official guidelines include advice on contacting work when seeking medical advice, which is available HERE.

Reporting for work: self-isolating

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) issued new advice, on Monday 16th March, on what employees should do if they have to go into self-quarantine or self-isolation as a result of the Covid-19 virus. You can read a summary HERE.

Reporting for work: Childcare difficulties

You will not automatically be paid if you are absent for work because of childcare difficulties arising from school or crèche closures. However, DPER has called on managers and employees to be flexible in such circumstances, and has advised public service employers to support staff experiencing childcare problems including by enabling home working or introducing flexible shifts, staggered shifts, longer opening hours or weekend working. You can read more HERE.

Reporting for work: Staff recently returned from abroad

Staff who have recently returned from abroad – particularly from restricted areas as defined by the Department of Foreign Affairs, should follow HSE guidelines and/or seek medical advice.

You should also advise your line manager or HR department that you are doing this. The most recent official guidelines include advice on contacting work when seeking medical advice, which is available HERE.

If you encounter problems with your employer

If you have followed Fórsa/DPER advice and still encounter problems with your line manager or HR department, you should contact the union HERE.

TEMPORARY TRANSFER TO CRITICAL ROLES

New arrangements for a public service-wide mobilisation to tackle the Covid-19 virus and maintain essential public services have been put in place. They allow the temporary reallocation of civil and public servants to critical roles in the HSE, social welfare and elsewhere for up to three months, with a possible extension if required.

Under the new arrangements, published in a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) circular on Wednesday 18th March, local human resource departments across the civil and public service will identify staff who could be released for temporary reallocation.

Staff identified as available for potential temporary reallocation will receive a link to an online questionnaire for submission to a dedicated Public Appointments Service (PAS) portal. Then PAS will process temporary reallocations in consultation with the relevant local HR departments – with assignments starting as soon as possible.

The new measures guarantee that staff who take on temporary roles will continue to be employed, and paid by, their existing employer. And they will return to their existing employer and role once the temporary reallocation is over. The measures also confirm that HSE-recommended social distancing will be observed in work settings, and that transferred staff will receive necessary training and upskilling.

The HSE has also published agreed measures on staff transfers. You can read them HERE.

Fórsa officials are available to deal with any problems that arise for members. The best way to contact the union at this time is HERE.

FÓRSA POLICY ON COVID-19 AND THE WORKPLACE

The union’s elected national officers met last Friday (13th March) and agreed the following:

“Fórsa and its members across the civil, public, private, voluntary and semi-state sectors are committed to co-operating fully with emergency measures necessary to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus, protect the health and safety of citizens and workers, and maintain essential services during this unprecedented public health emergency.

 “The union will continue to advise its members to co-operate with all necessary measures, including some that might not be acceptable in normal times, so long as employers consult with the appropriate unions, respect existing collective agreements, and reach agreement with the union if they feel it necessary to waive aspects of collective agreements in the short-term.”

Members are strongly advised to co-operate with management in its efforts to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus, protect the health and safety of citizens and workers, and maintain essential services – including when this means doing different things, in different ways, at different times.

Guidance issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which is available HERE., says staff redeployment across the civil and public services could be required to ensure the maintenance of essential services. It also called for the reassignment of staff within organisations to prioritise the most critical services.

The union is in constant liaison with management to ensure that appropriate protective and containment measures are in place.

If you have genuine concerns about the health and safety of yourself or others, or if you genuinely believe that collective agreements are being seriously breached without union consultation, you should contact the union HERE.

PROTECTIONS FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS WHO SELF-ISOLATE OR CONTRACT COVID-19

Civil and public servants who contract the Covid-19 virus, or who are advised to self-isolate by a medical practitioner, will receive basic pay including fixed allowances from day one. Coronavirus-related sick leave will not be counted as part of the employee’s sick leave record, so long as they have medical or HSE confirmation of the need to self-isolate.

FÓRSA: HERE TO SUPPORT YOU

Fórsa is here to protect you if you have problems arising from the coronavirus or other workplace issues. The best way to contact the union at this time is HERE.

We will deal with queries as quickly as we can but, needless to say, the union will prioritise cases where members’ jobs and incomes are at immediate risk – as well as any serious health and safety issues that may arise.

UNION BUSINESS

Fórsa has cancelled all face-to-face meetings for the time being. The union has redeployed its staff to prioritise engagement with management on proposals arising from the Covid-19 public health crisis, and to provide rapid and efficient responses to members’ queries and concerns.

Wherever possible, Fórsa staff have been equipped to work remotely. Therefore, members should NOT attend Fórsa offices at this time. If you have a query or concern, the best way to raise it is to contact the union HERE.