Return to Work Safely Protocol – Changes in November 2020 – Employer Considerations

Updated Work Safely Protocol


In November 2020, the Return to Work Safely Protocol was updated, keeping in mind the ongoing changes in public health advice and the Governments Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with Covid-19. 


It is now called the Work Safely Protocol.


The current lockdown is expected to end on March 5th 2021, and employers will be required to review the workplace environment and ensure that workers who are returning to workplaces return to a safe place to work in accordance with the Work Safely Protocol.


At present, and in line with Government guidelines, continued working from home where possible is advised.


Return to Work Safely Protocol


Key amendments to the Work Safely Protocol


The key amendments to the Work Safely Protocol compared to the previous Return to Work Safely Protocol are listed below. You can check off what is required of you the employer under these revised requirements.


  • COVID-19 symptoms have been updated and now include the loss or change in sense of smell and/or taste.
  • Information on how COVID-19 spreads and how long it can survive on surfaces is now included in the Protocol together with steps an employer should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Employers must keep their COVID-19 Response Plan up to date and continue to develop it in line with public health advice. 
  • Employers must engage with the Lead Worker Representatives on any changes to the COVID-19 Response Plan.
  • Employers must ensure that a worker’s health is not inadvertently exposed to additional occupational hazards where practices have been changed or modified to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • Employers must maintain up-to-date information for all employees as it may be needed by the Department of Public Health in the event of an outbreak.
  • Employers must provide information to employees on how to receive illness benefits or other Government supports.
  • Employers should encourage employees to download and use HSE COVID-19 app and provide advice to employees on the tracker.
  • Employers must provide hand sanitisers where washing facilities cannot be accessed and all hand sanitisers in the workplace must contain a minimum of 60% alcohol.

  • Employees must use their own pens when signing in and out of work.
  • Employers must provide tissues for all employees as well as bins/bags for their disposal.
  • Employers must implement a queueing system with correct distance floor markings to avoid queues at popular areas in the workplace, such as water cooler stations, canteen etc.
  • Employers must ensure that workers sharing collective accommodation at a place of work are grouped in teams.

  • Employers must always prevent gatherings of employees in workplace.
  • Employers must install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, between employees.
  • The Protocol notes the Covid-19 travel advice.
  • Employers must implement any COVID-19 testing that may be required as part of mass or serial testing requirements as advised by Public Health.
  • Employers must ensure that the designated isolation area is accessible by people with disabilities and that it has a door that can be closed over. Where this is not possible, the employer must provide an area away from employees.
  • The Protocol refers to At Risk Workers and advises that At-Risk Workers who cannot work from home must be supported in maintaining a physical distance of 2 meters while in the workplace.
  • Induction training for contractors and visitors to the workplace should be provided.
  • Personal waste e.g. used tissues and wipes should be disposed of in a plastic rubbish refuse bag. When this bag is full, it should be placed in a second refuse bag and left in a safe location for 3 days before being put out for collection.
  • The Protocol includes links to websites containing further information re ventilation and states that it is important that employers check their ventilation systems to ensure that there is an adequate supply of fresh air from a clean source.
  • Where a risk exposure to COVID-19 is identified, an occupational health and safety risk assessment must be completed by the employer.
  • The Protocol notes that face masks should be worn by employees if they need to share a vehicle, the sharing of a vehicle is not encouraged by the Protocol.
  • Face coverings are not currently required in office settings but as was the case previously, consideration should be given to using masks where social distancing is not possible or in open areas such as reception or other areas where people may pass.




What must Employers do:


  • Induction training should take place in advance of a return to the workplace. 
  • Confirmation should be obtained from the employee 3 days before returning to work that the employee is symptom free.
  • Carry out a review of your Safety Statement because of the revised Protocol.
  • Carry out a review of your Covid Response Plan because of the revised Protocol.
  • Carry out a review of your policies – sick leave and working from home policies.
  • Employers should check their employer liability insurance to ensure that it has been updated to reflect risks that come with COVID-19.


The Health & Safety Authority have a comprehensive list of templates, checklists and guidelines in relation to the above.  Click here for further information.


Need advice and support on COVID-19?


If you need HR advice, support, policies, procedures, guidance in relation to COVID-19, CollierBroderick are here to help.

We provide employers with support and advice, by phone, email, virtually and on-site, for all matters to do with employment law and HR. 


Next Steps


If you are an employer, please contact your CollierBroderick HR Advisor, or call us on 01 8666426contact us, or email us on