Public servants must use leave to quarantine if going overseas

More than 330,000 public servants have been directed to use annual leave or take unpaid leave to self-isolate for two weeks if they take non-essential trips overseas.
Public servants must use leave to quarantine if going overseas

The new travel guidance will impact on more than 330,000 staff working across public services, including education, defence, health and policing. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA

More than 330,000 public servants have been directed to use annual leave or take unpaid leave to self-isolate for two weeks if they take non-essential trips overseas.

Today the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) issued new guidance to civil and public service staff directing that they advise their employer of any planned travel.

The supplementary guidance was framed to advise staff of their leave arrangements if they return from non-essential travel overseas.

The new travel guidance will impact on more than 330,000 staff working across public services, including education, defence, health and policing.

It reiterates current public health advice to avoid all non-essential travel overseas.

The Department said travel to Great Britain and on cruise ships should be avoided but that travel to Northern Ireland is not impacted by the advisory notice.

The current rules where anyone coming into Ireland, with the exclusion of Northern Ireland, must restrict their movements for 14 days will continue to apply.

The Departmental guidance advises staff that it is their responsibility to provide for any periods of self-isolation where they return from non-essential travel overseas.

“Responsibility to provide for the period of restricted movement arising from non-essential travel overseas is a matter for each individual employee,” the new guidance states.

“Where there is an intention to undertake non-essential travel overseas, all employees must make provision by way of annual leave or unpaid leave application for the additional period of restricted movement, in line with the normal rules applying in the relevant sector,” it adds.

Staff must also advise their employer of any overseas travel plans. “The requirement that employees advise their employer of travel abroad is necessary for the protection of public health,” the guidance states.

The guidance will be reviewed in line with any changes in public health and travel advice, the Department said.

It is not clear why the new guidance was issued this week and the Department did not provide further comment when asked about the issue.

Forsa, the second largest trade union in the country which represents a range of public and civil service staff, said the new guidance was “unsurprising” given current advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

“The DPER position is unsurprising in light of the prevailing NPHET guidance that everyone in Ireland - regardless of whether or where they work - should avoid all non-essential overseas travel as a public health measure,” a spokesperson for Forsa said.

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