Easing of restrictions in workplaces: the Transitional Protocol

Mary Connaughton, Director, CIPD Ireland

It’s a mark of changing times to read the government’s Transitional Protocol: Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 for workplaces published on 31 January 2022.

Down from 70+ pages in earlier versions to just 17 pages this time, the new Transitional Protocol reinforces that safety measures are still needed during the phased return to the workplace, in order to keep workplaces and the people in them safe, while letting go a number of the harsher measures to protect against Covid-19 transmission.

The overall emphasis is still on infection protection and control, and an appropriate on-site Covid-19 response plan. In general employers and employees are encouraged to retain continued good practices built up over the past two years, which support a safe working environment for all. In CIPD we hear of many workplaces who are retaining aspects of the original measures in place for now.

In terms of the Transitional Protocol, it removes the necessity for pods of six and two metre social distancing, yet is always alert to riskier situations where they may be needed.

The legal requirement to wear a face mask/covering only applies in specific regulated settings (e.g., healthcare, public transport, public offices, retail etc.). It also covers workers involved in the preparation or service of food and beverages for consumption on the premises, so applies to canteens, etc.

The Protocol still recommends mask wearing as good practice, though no longer a legal requirement. It also calls out for them to be worn by individuals at high or very high risk, in crowded areas and where workers share work vehicles.  A risk assessment should be used to identify the locations / circumstances in your workplace where it would be appropriate to wear masks, e.g. meetings. Employers are expected to continue to support and facilitate the use of face masks by any worker who wants to wear one.

Measures to deal with suspected cases or outbreaks have to be maintained as do the rules around hand and respiratory hygiene, ventilation, cleaning, signs about symptoms, etc.

We recognise that some anxiety may exist as employees plan the phased return to the workplace, and advise employers to discuss this with employees, and where appropriate, provide supports.

We know from our members that this Protocol will align with the slow cautious return that is starting to happen on the ground in workplaces across the country, and having official guidelines such as these will be a valuable tool for employers as they chart their path through the coming months. 

For more information see: https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/Publications/Transitional-Protocol-COVID-19.html

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