FSU Calls for an Agreed, Safe and Hybrid Return to the Office for workers

Issued : 1 September 2021

Employers must reach agreements with unions for a return to the office which protects workers and provides choice.

Ensuring the safety of workers must be paramount when returning to the office and lifting restrictions. The Government indicated yesterday that a phased return to the office might potentially start from September 20th with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment encouraging a blend of office and home working. The FSU, through our Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), will be engaged in discussions with the Government and the employer body IBEC on appropriate guidelines and models for safe and blended work arrangements.

The current Work Safely Protocol is available and makes clear that ventilation, vaccinations, physical distancing, cleaning, mask-wearing, good hand and respiratory hygiene, are all still part of the essential fight against the spread of COVID and good office health and safety.

Commenting on yesterdays’ announcement, FSU Head of Industrial Relations and Campaigns, Gareth Murphy noted:

“Our members have worked throughout this pandemic in offices, branches and home environments. Each location brings its own challenges but one thing is paramount, that is their physical and mental health. This remains the key for all workers as restrictions are lifted.

It’s clear from listening to our members, they want a mixed approach, where possible, of home and office work. No one wants to go back or return absolutely to the way things were. We need to learn the lessons of the pandemic and agree better ways of working for our members and society at large.

We are engaged with employers on the return to the office, in conjunction with new mixed or hybrid models of work, which protect and enhance the work environment for all. We have promoted protocols on professionalising home working and also on the right to disconnect.

It is vital costs such as heating, lighting, electricity and space, are not passed from employers to workers. Therefore, we renew our call for home working allowances to be made mandatory on employers.”