Broad welcome from business groups for reopening update
There’s been a general welcome for the measures announced by the Taoiseach about the next phase of reopening of the economy and society.
Business group Ibec said the announcement provided clarity on the timeline for a phased and safe return to offices.
The roadmap would provide added momentum to what has already been a very strong economic recovery, it said.
“Government policy is now aligned with this business imperative and businesses have the autonomy to determine with their stakeholders not just the “what” and “how” to return to new patterns of activity but, also the “when” to do so,” Ibec CEO, Danny McCoy, said.
“The next challenge is to address office logistics, social distancing, and other control measures, as well as consistency in managing close contacts.”
Chambers Ireland encouraged businesses to take all reasonable steps in prioritising the safety of staff and customers in the workplace as more premises reopen and workers begin to return to offices.
It said the relatively high level of transmission of the Delta variant would require businesses to continue to be proactive in their risk mitigation measures.
It also welcomed the government’s commitment that the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme and Pandemic Unemployment Payment would remain in place, as it said many businesses would not have a clear picture of their trading health until next year.
“These supports will remain essential for employees to return to work and businesses to reopen safely, with significant uncertainty expected into 2022 and beyond,” the Chief Executive of Chambers Ireland, Ian Talbot said.
“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,” he said.
“This will carry costs and challenges with significant management upskilling required to accommodate the shift. The National Training Fund should assist businesses in this,” Mr Talbot added.
The professional body for Human Resources personnel, while welcoming the government’s plans for reopening workplaces, warned that the challenge for employers would be getting the balance right.
CIPD Ireland called on businesses to prioritise safety and flexibility.
It said many of its more than six thousand members across Ireland had contacted the organisation to raise concerns around the future design of workplaces, including office layout, rostering, hybrid working, transport options as well as dealing with employee expectations and anxieties.
“Our members are under no illusion about the scale of the task facing them in the weeks ahead,” CIPD Ireland Director Mary Connaughton said.
“The focus for workplaces now needs to be on what the reopening will look like for them.”
The Institute of Directors said the roadmap was a further boost to the economy and wider society.
“Nearly 70% of business leaders in our research have also told us that they expect hybrid working models to be part of the future nature of work,” Maura Quinn, Chief Executive, the IoD in Ireland said.
“That will present challenges, at least initially, and striking a balance will be key. The Government’s guidance and continuing support measures on reopening the economy, workplaces and society, will be key to this plan being a success,” she added.
While acknowledging that the roadmap was subject to changing circumstances, Ms Quinn said the announcement brought both clarity and certainty in the short term.
The Small Firms Association said the measures would provide clarity to business owners on a safe transition back to office-based office-based work.
“It has been a difficult road for the small business community and considerable investment has been made by SFA members to ensure that their office environments are safe for returns, but clear guidance from Government and the HSA is needed to ensure that everyone can have peace of mind,” SFA Director Sven Spollen Behrens said.
“Not only is the return to office vitally important for collaboration and innovation within a business but the absence of office-based workers has been acutely felt in our town centres and business parks.”