The chief executive of Ibec has told the Government it is vital that the next road map to reopening the economy is less prescriptive in nature than previously.
In a letter to the Taoiseach and other ministers, Danny McCoy said businesses welcomed that Government is publishing a revised road map to reflect the progress made in vaccination the public.
But he added that with nearly nine out of ten adults now fully vaccinated, it is time that greater personal responsibility for individuals, and autonomy for businesses in their office operations, forms the core of the approach in the next phase of Covid.
“Specifically it must provide the autonomy for all businesses to reopen fully in a safe and phased way,” Mr McCoy wrote.
The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 is due to meet on Friday to consider plans for the next phase of reopening, with the road map set to be announced following a full meeting of the Government next Tuesday.
Mr McCoy said a return to the office is a key priority for many Ibec members and that businesses had been frustrated in recent months at the need to revise their plans to bring staff back into offices on numerous occasions.
“The new road map must enable businesses to finally plan with certainty for a phased and safe return to office over the coming weeks and months,” he told Micheál Martin.
“The experience with the Work Safely Protocol, together with extensive guidance from the Health and Safety Authority provides the confidence that all businesses can ensure appropriate measures for employees and customers,” he added.
The business group also expressed concern about the ongoing restrictions on the parts of the experience economy, such as live events, music and the arts, which remain curtailed.
“The particularly long length of the restrictions period for these businesses has left many of them and their employees in perilous circumstances,” Mr McCoy stated.
“These businesses will face a difficult path in the return to viability, but Government restrictions should no longer be one of the obstacles that they need to grapple with,” he said.
“The road map must provide absolute clarity and certainty for all businesses to fully reopen as quickly as possible beginning no later than mid-September,” he added.
Ibec said today that the timing and staffing of the return to the office should be made by individual employers rather than by the Government.
Ibec’s chief executive Danny McCoy told the News at One that as the Covid-19 virus becomes endemic it will be time to take the individual circumstances of people and businesses into account and give employers autonomy in relation to a phased return to the office.
Mr McCoy said there should not be “blanket decisions” on when and how a return to work should happen, adding that decisions should be made at the level of each firm, individual to its needs.
He said that Safe Return to Work protocols are in place along with public health regulations to inform decision-making.
Mr McCoy said that a return to the office is a key priority for many Ibec members, not on a five-day week basis, but in a gradual way.
He said that many have found it is better to learn from interactions with clients and colleagues in person, especially for younger people or new hires, and that “it is very difficult to do that prescriptively on virtual platforms”.
The customer experience in the “experience economy” also requires people to be back in work, he added.
Mr McCoy said that the PUP should be tapered off as the economy is substantially re-opened up as it has hindered businesses in getting staff.
But he said the CRSS scheme and Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme need to be kept in place.
He said that for people connected to jobs that have not returned, the PUP is required.
But he said “the ambition here is to open up the full economy safely and quickly”.
Mr McCoy also said the Government’s roadmap for re-opening is critical and needs to be more timely and not stretch into the new year, as business people would then miss another season.
In response to today’s letter, a Government spokesperson said that it acknowledges the challenges faced by many sectors of society during this pandemic and welcomes the constructive engagement by Ibec.
“We will shortly publish a roadmap for managing Covid-19, which includes the further re-opening of various sectors and the workplace,” the government spokesperson said.
“Government will work with each sector to facilitate the next stages of that re-opening,” the spokesperson added.