COVID 19: Is your Business an “Essential Service”? Employer Guidance.

by Caoimhe Heery, Senior Associate at Ronan Daly Jermyn.

To help tackle this unprecedented crisis, An Taoiseach has announced further restrictions on the movement of people in Ireland. Everyone must stay at home except for certain limited situations, such as essential food shopping, medical appointments, exercise, or vital family reasons.

Employees can only travel to and from work “where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home”.

What is an Essential Service?

Employers should refer to the guidance in assessing whether their business is providing an essential service, however, it is not necessary to seek official authorisation.

The list of essential services can be found at:

Where a business does fall to be defined as an essential service, it is expected, to “the maximum extent possible”, to carry out its services remotely and employees should only travel to work where there is no other option.

What should employers do?

Businesses who fall into the category of an essential service should identify those employees who are essential to the provision of that service and notify them. This can be done by category or individual employee. For some organisations it can include all of their employees and other workers such as subcontractors. If a business is providing an essential service and employees are at work, latest public health guidance, to include social distancing, should be followed at all times.

Where it is a necessity for employees to travel to work employers should advise their employees to carry work identification with them during their commute. Where appropriate employers should provide employees with a letter confirming that they are an essential employee and giving details of a contact name and phone number of a person within the company who can corroborate this. We would suggest someone in HR as the most appropriate contact person. The guidance states that employees “should at all times bring with them either a work identification or a letter from your employer indicating that you are an essential employee, as well as one other form of identification”.

Employees of businesses who do not fall into the category of an essential service are not currently permitted to travel to and from work until 12 April 2020. There will be a grace period until 6pm on Monday, 30 March to allow for an orderly wind down. In exceptional circumstances extra time will be provided. Some companies will also be allowed operate at a reduced level, for example in complex manufacturing processes.

All employers engaged in essential services should direct their employees, as much as is possible, to work from home. Where such employees cannot work from home public health guidelines should be maintained.

About the author
Caoimhe joined Ronan Daly Jermyn’s Employment team in 2012. She provides advice on all areas of employment law. Caoimhe has a particular interest in the areas of health, education and the life sciences sector. On the non-contentious side, Caoimhe gives HR professionals practical and commercially focused advice on their day to day issues including grievance and disciplinary procedures and also has a specific responsibility within the team for pensions, having previously obtained a Law Society certificate in Pensions Law and Practice, and work permit applications and appeals for multinational clients. Caoimhe also has a particular interest in insolvency and M&A work.
Caoimhe is a committee member of the C.I.P.D. (West) branch. She also provides tailored training and legal updates to her clients. She has lectured on the Law Society Diploma in Employment Law and tutors employment law on the Law Society professional practice course. She also contributes to the IELJ and Legal Island.