The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has published interim guidance on its website to assist employers to manage workers’ return to work following COVID-19-related absence. It sets out the steps involved in determining/assessing Fitness for Work of any employee, after an absence due to COVID-19 Infection or suspected infection. The Guidance can be considered within existing sickness and absence management procedures and policies. It applies to Non-Healthcare workers and specific guidance for Healthcare workers can be found here. The HSA has also published Guidance for Workers returning to work after COVID-19 absence.
Fitness for Work (FFW) refers to a state of (physical and psychological) health and wellbeing, which enables a worker to carry out their work, reliably, safely and effectively, and in a way which does not affect their safety or the safety of others. The Guidance outlines general return to work criteria for workers returning after an absence from work due to COVID-19 Infection or testing which allows for the timely and safe return of the worker to their normal role and responsibilities where possible.
Most workers who contract the COVID-19 virus will recover with no long-term health effects. Some workers, however, may suffer serious or on-going health effects and need additional support to return to work. The Guidance also covers vulnerable workers and assisting workers to return to work after COVID-19 infection.
The following scenarios are outlined in the Employer guidance:
- Returning to work following a suspected case of COVID-19
- Returning to work following a confirmed case of COVID-19 without health complications
- Worker unfit to return to work following a confirmed case of COVID-19
Each scenario guides the employer through the steps involved and emphasises good communication between employer and employee throughout. An interactive checklist accompanies each scenario to assist employers in complying with public health guidance and the Government’s Work Safely Protocol.
Amongst the list of further information and resources included is the HSA’s Work Safely Induction online course which provides a short 20 minute COVID-19 Induction for those returning to the work.
It should be noted that this is interim guidance and it will be reviewed and updated as public health advice and government advice changes. Employers should keep up to date at https://gov.ie for the most current information on government restrictions and can keep up to date with public health advice here.
The HSA Interim Guidance for both Employers and Workers on Fitness for Work following COVID-19 Absence can be found on the HSA website here. The Guidance was published in collaboration with the National Standing Oversight Committee (NSOC) on Cases and Outbreaks of COVID-19 in High-Risk Workplace Settings.