5th March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) What Employers Need to Know

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pointers for Local Employers

For the latest (regular) updates from the HSE see:

To access the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation (DBEI) Business Continuity Planning Checklist:

Follow these Measures to Stop the Spread of Coronavirus

  • The illness is most likely transmitted through cough droplets, with regular hand washing one of the most effective ways of preventing contamination
  • It should take 20 seconds to wash your hands properly
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap (anti bacterial) and water are not available

Anyone with concerns about infection are advised to contact the HSE Helpline on 1850 24 1850, or phone their GP.

What Employers Need to Know

NB: If an employee is confirmed to have contracted Covid-19, they must be cleared by the HSE / certified by their GP prior to returning to work.

Continuity Planning: While the situation is evolving rapidly, it is important to be prepared to deal with any escalation in the spread of the virus.

Key Areas to Consider are:

  • Develop a comprehensive employee communications strategy: In medium to large businesses, appoint a designated coordinator to ensure reliable, up-to-date information is communicated to employees and to also clarify your procedures and policies to staff, so they know where they stand.

Ensure all managers and staff are made familiar with relevant policies and procedures, in particular in relation to:

  • Absence
  • Sick Leave
  • Lay-off and short time working
  • Force Majeure (this refers to a clause that is included in contracts to remove liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes that interrupt the expected course of events and restrict participants from fulfilling obligations
  • Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015
  • Payment of Wages Act 1991


Plan how to address a change in work requirements.

Consider the effect that significant employee absences would have on your workplace, for example:

  •  A number of employees may become ill with the virus
  • Employees may have family members who become ill with the virus and require care
  • Where employees consider absenting themselves for fear of contracting the virus

Stress Test your Business

There may be challenges around absence and the payment of sick leave. How would your business cope if you had 10 , 20 or 30 percent absence rate? Identify what level of absence would trigger undue pressure on your business.

Try to address the ‘fear factor’ by allaying staff concerns (for example you could invite a health practitioner to speak with staff to offer advice and reassurance).


What to Do?

  • Where possible be flexible. Can you offer remote working arrangements?
  • When dealing with vulnerable employees, can you allow them take periods of annual or unpaid leave? this is particularly important for employees at high risk of developing more severe symptoms from the coronavirus, including those with respiratory problems or poor immune systems and pregnant employees.
  • That said, the fear of contracting an illness is not sufficient reason for failing to attend work. If you are faced with an employee refusing to come to work, you will be entitled to take disciplinary action for unauthorised absence, should you decide to take that route.


The business community has endured many challenges in recent years, months and weeks. Without doubt Coronavirus is  yet another major challenge.  If you have any employer related queries on this matter, we welcome your enquires and promote to do our best to help.  Please contact Margaret O’Brien, CEO, Ennis Chamber. Email:

Keep an eye on HSE updates, follow recommended procedures, stay healthy and safe!

This website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience. By using this site you agree to our Cookie Policy Ok