GSE 01-20 COVID-19 Pandemic



The Union has been working with eir management on its plans and contingencies to deal with the evolving and unprecedented viral outbreak of COVID-19.

A key objective for the CWU is the wellbeing and safety of our members. This must be balanced with the demands of operating and maintaining a critical piece of the country’s infrastructure where continuity of service is vital.

To that end the company has established a dedicated preparedness team, titled AURA. It has tasked each department to prepare a Business Continuity Plan which has already taken place. CWU is involved in weekly updates on the readiness of the company’s plans and will work with the company to continually assess the risk to our members and the appropriate response and plans to deal with it.

In our discussions with the Company we have re quested that measures are put in place immediately to provide the necessary protections to reduce the risk to staff and provide flexibility in attendance, leave etc.

Hygienic Workplaces

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advice is that the simplest way to stop the spread of infections in the workplace is to make sure the workplace is clean and hygienic.

While the Company has the responsibility to ensure this is the case, so too has every individual. Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly. The CWU has asked the company to ensure the necessary resources are available to staff to do this and the union is asking that everyone play their part in maintaining the highest possible hygiene standards.

Hand Sanitiser/Hand Hygiene

CWU has expressed concern at the lack of hand sanitisers. Eir has assured the union that they have ordered and await delivery of hand sanitisers. Delivery is expected soon but the worldwide demand on sanitiser is impacting on availability.

Where possible staff should continue to wash their hands using soap and make use of surgical gloves or blue wipes (available to field staff). The reduced cleaning of exchanges etc. is a challenge but we have asked management to prioritise cleaning of the welfare facilities. Supplies are on order and continually being ordered and 760 exchanges have supplies & further consumables are ordered to ensure a constant supply.

If field staff have to travel to a location to clean their hands then they should do so. Separate guidelines apply for staff calling to customers i.e. advance calling to make sure they do not pose a risk, and this should have been communicated by local management.

In retail outlets, local management should seek to provide wipes, sanitiser and latex gloves (locally if not available from the company) and customers are being asked to go cashless to minimise contact.

For the FOTS team, the logistics of providing hand sanitizer and latex gloves is challenging, and team members have been advised by the company to purchase these items if possible and expense the cost back to the business.

For other office-based staff the HSE guidelines on social distancing should apply where practical and whatever the circumstances good hand hygiene is recommended as an essential weapon in the fight against COVID-19 and should be practised regularly in everyone’s interest.

In the call centres frequency of cleaning has been increased and methods have been updated to take account of the present situation i.e. no vacuuming and increased use of sanitising wipes. Hand sanitiser dispensers are being topped up throughout the day and social distancing has been implemented as far as is practical in relation to workspaces.

Overall, the company has assured the union that everything possible is being done in these extraordinary circumstances to ensure the health and safety of staff. The H&S team are working hard to stay up to date with the relevant HSE guidance and information. is of paramount importance to us and not sure this statement is helpful at this time.

Remote/Flexible Working

Following the announcement by the government last Thursday the company is facilitating remote working arrangements where it is feasible and practical. Given the importance of the eir network and services provided on it not all staff will be able to avail of this option. Staff should work with local line managers to decide if remote working is possible and are encouraged to avail of the option where possible. This should help to make social distancing easier for those staff who have to attend the workplace.

The HSE guide to employers is to introduce policies to reduce social contact, such as:

  • flexible hours
  • staggering start times and break times
  • teleworking arrangements
  • using email and teleconferencing
  • reduce face-to-face meetings and gatherings

Members should explore flexible working options with local management. 

Sick Pay and Self Isolation

There have been many queries in relation to what entitlements apply in different circumstances and these are guidelines provided by the company:

  • In the case that someone is out sick due to a confirmed diagnosis of COVID 19 then the normal sick pay process will apply
  • If someone is in forced isolation by the HSE the normal sick pay process will apply
  • If someone wishes to self-isolate on a precautionary basis, due to close contact with someone recently diagnosed or having travelled from an affected area, and they cannot work from home, then in the first instance they will be encouraged to use annual leave and failing that unpaid leave (or a mixture of both)
  • If someone wishes to self-isolate due to a family member being diagnosed or having to self-isolate, and they cannot work from home, then in the first instance they will be encouraged to use annual leave, failing that force majeure leave (or a mix of both) and failing this unpaid leave
  • If someone has been directed by a doctor to self-isolate on the basis that they are a probable source of COVID-19 infection, then the normal sick pay process will apply
  • If an employee is instructed by the company not to come to work as a precaution they should be paid as normal
  • If an employee cannot attend for work due to childcare issues whilst the schools/childcare facilities etc. are closed then the following applies;
    • they should try and make alternative childcare arrangements in the first instance
    • work remotely from home where possible
    • take ‘force majeure’ leave – this can be up to 5 days in any 3-year period
    • use annual leave
    • apply for parental leave – in these exceptional circumstances we will waive the 6 week notice period
    • if none of the above is possible they can discuss a period of unpaid leave with their line manager
    • employees may also use a mix of the above e.g. force majeure and annual leave

Staff who are anxious about the evolving situation or feel it is having a negative impact on their mental health should avail of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (ROI) 1800 911 909  (NI) 0800 0988 350 Web Services:  Use EAP Code: LAYAEAP

Given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic we will continue to monitor developments and work with the company to assess the impacts on the working environment for our members. Further updates will issue by GS circular as may be required. I recognise that this is a stressful time for everyone, members and their families, but we must work together, listen and adhere to the advice the authorities are giving us and by working collectively we will minimise the risk to our health and wellbeing.

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