Simon Harris urges businesses to help staff work from home

Simon Harris urges businesses to help staff work from home
Covid-19 lockdowns have seen many work from home (Niall Carson/PA)

The Minister for Further and Higher Education has repeated calls to employers to help their staff work from home.

Simon Harris said there has been anecdotal evidence of too much traffic on the roads, despite appeals from Government and health officials to allow staff to work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Harris said that allowing workers to stay at home will help flatten the curve and allow the country to move out of its third wave of Covid-19 cases.

Asked whether Government would consider sanctioning employers who refuse to facilitate remote working, Mr Harris said there is not yet enough official data.

He added: “The Government and health advice could not be clearer – we want people to stay at home and work from home.

“I will be dialling into Cabinet meeting tomorrow. We need to do everything we can to stay indoors as much as possible.

“It’s really important employers get that message and I think many of them have. It’s good for their business because the more we stay at home, the more we flatten the curve and the more we get out of this third wave.

“Some of the traffic levels we have seen  – there have been times where there has been too much traffic on the road. Gardaí had a very busy weekend in Wicklow turning people away and issuing fines.”

Mr Harris also said that the vaccine programme is “ramping up” and that a lot of progress had been made over the weekend.

He described the priority vaccination list as an “evolving document”, adding that Government will follow the advice of the experts.

“We have been at our best during this pandemic when we listened to the medics, and if it comes to the health of my family, my child, my community, I would be happy to take the advice of expert doctors,” he added.

“The two groups the medical experts have said are most urgent are frontline health workers and nursing home residents, for very obvious reasons…”

On Monday, Mr Harris launched a new online hub for people who want to retrain or reskill, particularly those who have lost their job as a result of the pandemic.

The online portal, dubbed a “one-stop-shop” for businesses, employees and the unemployed, outlines the third-level options available to them.

It includes short part-time courses and courses for an individual in employment as well as the option to return to third level.

Mr Harris said the virus has changed and accelerated the ways in which the public works.

He added: “All of this means we have to challenge ourselves as a Government and as a State, to help people find routes back to employment and help them find the right course to develop skills they need for their own progress and match the changing needs of the country.

“There are a broad range of options out there, but sometimes people find it a bit hard to navigate and find it confusing about where they go to find out about training, reskilling or doing an apprenticeship.

“Today, I am launching a new portal to put all that information together and make it easier for people to see the opportunities that are available.”

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