Patrick Whelan takes a look at the options available to businesses:

The Government imposed the first local lockdowns in Ireland in early August. Counties Laois, Kildare and Offaly initially faced two weeks of restrictions from midnight August 8th.

With case numbers still on the rise, the risk of local lockdowns may continue for months until the public health team are satisfied that the risk of transmission is under control.

The restrictions affecting the three midland counties imposed travel restrictions and even closure orders on certain businesses.

So, how should your business respond if your county faces into a local lockdown? Although individual businesses may not be asked to close, you still need to react quickly to any news of local restrictions as you may need to take precautionary measures even if allowed to remain open.

What does a local lockdown look like?

The local lockdown measures in Kildare, Laois, and Offaly required cafés, restaurants, and pubs in the three counties to close along with cinemas, theatres, museums, and gyms. Travel was also restricted to essential journeys. Travelling to work outside an affected county was still permitted if the employee could not do their work from home.

There are two main areas to consider if your business is faced with local restrictions:

  • How can your business help reduce a rising number of coronavirus cases? How to respond if your business is on the list required to close.
  • The best way for your business to play its part in reducing the risk of transmission is to ensure your workplace complies with the Return to Work Safely Protocol and any industry-specific public health measures.

You should have a robust COVID-19 Response Plan and a clearly defined response structure for dealing with a suspected case of COVID-19. For more information on the Return to Work Safely Protocol, see our Toolkit.

If your business is asked to close

If your business must close to help reduce the number of coronavirus cases in your county, then you should consider the following:

  • A period of homeworking for staff where possible. Remote work is entirely at the discretion of employers but if appropriate to your business, it may be the best way to deal with short-term local lockdowns.
  • If working from home isn’t a feasible option and provided the contract of employment allows it, you can consider a period of layoff for employees.
  • You could explore the use of accrued annual leave or other types of unpaid leave like parental leave.