In-house lawyers and HR professionals ‘optimistic’ about re-opening of workplaces

In-house lawyers and HR professionals 'optimistic' about re-opening of workplaces

Melanie Crowley

In-house lawyers and HR professionals are optimistic about the re-opening of workplaces by September 2020, according to a new survey conducted by Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC).

The business law firm surveyed around 300 participants in a recent webinar on the employment law and health and safety issues associated with a return to the workplace as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Over three-quarters of respondents said their organisation had already started to plan the return of employees and are confident their physical workplace would reopen by September 2020, with only seven per cent believing they will reopen later than September and one per cent expecting to reopen in 2021.

However, a majority (51 per cent) remain concerned that difficulties around social distancing may delay employees returning to offices and workplaces, with a quarter (24 per cent) adding that employee concerns could also pose an obstacle.

Melanie Crowley, head of employment law at Mason Hayes & Curran, said: “The results show a marked optimism amongst HR professionals and in-house lawyers, with most respondents already planning for the re-opening of workplaces. This is most likely a result of the positive progress being made by Ireland in terms of flattening the curve of infection.

“It’s heartening to see that businesses are taking a pro-active approach to bringing employees back to the workplace, but as we work through the complex issues surrounding the re-opening of offices and buildings, it’s key that employers are as flexible as possible when dealing with employees and carry out robust risk assessments on workplaces, document the outcome of those risk assessments and then communicate with and train employees on how to implement mitigations.”

She added: “The obligation to ensure workplaces are safe and any exposure to potential claims for workplace infections are clearly high on the agenda for employers and so too is the need to factor in employees’ personal circumstances especially with regard to vulnerabilities and practical issues like childcare.

“This may mean that working from home becomes a more permanent feature of our working lives, where that can be accommodated.”

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