The Irish Government has already acted decisively to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in shutting down schools, colleges, and childcare facilities, at least until March 29, and large public gatherings have been cancelled.
Ireland has so far seen a limited impact from the coronavirus, and, as a wealthy, island nation with a low population density, it may be better placed than many other countries in Europe to contain its spread.
As of March 20, 2020, Irish travel policies dictate that anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, are required to either restrict their movements or self-isolate on arrival for 14 days. This includes Irish residents, but those providing essential supply chain services are exempt. At the time of writing, a travel ban was under consideration in both Ireland and the UK.
Planning for COVID-19
Although the virus is at a nascent stage, the Government has already released guidelines to support businesses to continue their operations and adapt to face the challenges COVID-19 poses, including through the release of a "Checklist of preparatory actions in responding to COVID-19".
In the checklist, the Irish Government has recommended a number of actions that business leaders can take to prepare for COVID-19.
The checklist advises firms that they should consider appointing a planning coordinator or team, with defined responsibilities and a budget. This team would be responsible for working with management to undertake a high-level impact assessment and establish a business continuity plan.
Human Resources planning
In consultation with workers and worker representative bodies, businesses should look to enable workers to work from home while self-isolating and arrive at a plan for when individuals in their organisation are unable to work, including due to illness, the Government says.
Companies will also need to consider policies on sick leave and compassionate leave with respect to COVID-19, and businesses with overseas workers may also need to decide how to meet the needs of these personnel.
Business considerationsBusinesses can minimise disruption through a number of actions. The checklist advises that businesses should:
- Identify critical activities and the employees and inputs required to maintain them;
- Consider the possible impact of employee absences;
- Consider the possible impact of disruption to the supply of inputs from suppliers in Ireland and overseas suppliers;
- Examine the likely impact of COVID-19 on their market and on their customers' requirements;
- Identify and agree strategic imperatives;
- Consider the issues for business-related travel due to COVID-19;
- Consider the financial management implications due to COVID-19;
- Examine the extent to which others will be dependent on their business due to COVID19; and
- Consider the circumstances in which operations would be scaled back or suspended.
Supply chain considerations
To ensure output, businesses may find it beneficial to cross-train members of staff to undertake key roles and identify potential alternative sources of labour.
Supply chains may also be impacted. As such, businesses should get in contact with their suppliers, the Government has advised, and, where necessary, some businesses will need to make changes to their suite of products and/or services during COVID-19. Businesses should also consider whether their insurance coverage continues to meet their needs.
Keeping staff members safe
- Companies can reduce the spread of the outbreak to their staff by announcing policies on hygiene and by providing handwashing facilities and other protection equipment where necessary. In particular, the Irish state is calling on businesses to explore ways to reduce face to face contact with customers.
- The Government has released a number of resources, posters, and guidance, which will be updated as the situation develops. Two guides are currently available for employers:
- Guidance on COVID-19 for workers dealing with the general public; and
- Information on COVID-19 for people who have come to Ireland from other countries including visitors, students, and workers.
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