The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has called on employers to take account of HSE advice on coronavirus when introducing measures to stop the spread of the infection.
It comes as the Dublin Chamber of Commerce advised businesses to adhere to a business continuity planning check list issued by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
ICTU said that firms should communicate with staff on actions that might be taken in their workplace to protect workers from Covid-19 while also ensuring that employees' incomes are protected.
General Secretary Patricia King said: “Employers must engage with staff and union representatives before decisions are taken regarding working arrangements as a result of the virus."
Noting that the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan, has said he believes the risk of Covid-19 infection spreading in Ireland is low, Patricia King called on the Workplace Relations Commission to develop an agreed response to the infection.
In a statement Dublin Chamber of Commerce said: “Preparatory actions can be taken to respond to (covid-19).
“Assign responsibility for planning and preparedness to a senior executive and a deputy, consult within the company, with workers and worker representatives, suppliers on measures they are taking and on potential disruptions to supply chains and establish authorities, triggers and procedures for implementing plans.
“Many of the actions are the same as you would have prepared during any type of similar threat such as preparations for influenza pandemics. Organisations should consider appointing a planning coordinator and/or team with defined responsibilities and budget for planning and for preparedness. A deputy should also be appointed.
“If an organisation already has a business continuity planning process, addressing Covid-19 within that process should be considered. It is particularly important that an organisation uses the national resources, posters and guidance that are available and updated on a regular basis to reflect the rapidly emerging situation.”
Some of the key advice from the Chamber and the Department includes; preparing policies on hygienic behaviour for employees and visitors to premises as guided by national recommendations.
“Adhere to respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene policies. Plan to provide for hand washing, hand hygiene, tissue disposal and other facilities as per national recommendations and frequent and effective cleaning of the workplace as per national recommendations
“Prepare policies as per national recommendations to advise those who are infected, or are suspected to be infected with Covid-19, plan measures to reduce face-to-face contact with customers / suppliers and between employees from different sites.
Other guidelines are; identifying work organisation measures that can be taken to reduce potential for employees who are in the workplace to infect each other, preparing policies on flexible work locations such as teleworking and flexible working times and the provision of telecommunications infrastructure to support teleworking and remote customer interaction.