I propose to take Questions Nos. 613 to 615, inclusive, together.
At the launch of the national Return to Work Safely Protocol it was emphasised that it was a "living document" and as such it is at all times open to amendment as public health advice from the Department of Health and HSE change so it may be necessary to adapt provisions within the protocol.
The National Return to Work Safely Protocol explicitly states that the success of its provisions is dependent on co-operation between workers and employers, such co-operation to include regular engagement about the virus and the preventative measures in place within the workplace involved.
It should be noted Section 27 of The Health, Safety and Welfare Act, 2005 prohibits an employer from penalising or threatening to penalise an employee with respect to any terms or condition of his/her employment, where the employee is exercising any right under safety and health legislation.
The enforcement of Section 27 of the Health and Safety Act is a matter for the Workplace Relations Commission. Any employee who feels that their health and safety or employment rights have been breached in relation to Covid 19 in the workplace has recourse to the industrial mechanisms of the state.
The National Return to Work Safely Protocol recognises that in order to copper fasten the co-operation between the employer and the worker the appointment of a dedicated worker representative to take the lead role in the implementation, monitoring and reporting on the agreed Covid-19 related measures within the workplace is necessary. Employers are required to ensure any workers allocated the role of lead Covid-19 representative has received appropriate training in order to carry out this role. This training will be in addition to and not in substitution of the compulsory induction Covid-19 training to be provided by employers to all their workers.
Appointment to the role of Covid-19 representative will be subject to the agreement of the employer that there can be no repercussions on the representative’s employment status.
The Protocol does not relieve in anyway an employer of his or her responsibilities under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, or Regulations made under the Act in regard to protection of the safety, health and welfare of their employees. Under this legislation employers must carry out an appropriate risk assessment and produce a related safety statement and make the appropriate details of these available to the relevant employees.