Return to Work protocols will see no handshaking, temperature testing and intensive cleaning policies
Employers could be successfully sued if they don't take "reasonable steps" to safeguard staff from Covid-19 as they return to work.
Risk assessments and other protective measures, including maintenance of social distancing and the provision of protective masks and other PPE, will be necessary.
Under the roadmap for easing restrictions, the reopening of workplaces is set to take place on a phased basis between May 18 and August 10.
But some employers are concerned about the potential for legal claims if staff get infected at work.
The Alliance for Insurance Reform has called for a review of the common duty of care so that it is reasonable, practical and proportionate, but doesn't ignore personal responsibility.
Its director Peter Boland said there should be little support from the public, the legal professions or medics for claims if they believe someone is trying to create a case with no basis.
Liam Moloney, a solicitor specialising in personal injury and employment law, said employers were not the absolute guarantors of an employee's safety but had a duty to take "reasonable care" to prevent Covid-19 infections.
He warned that employees would have the right to sue for damages by claiming negligence, breach of duty and breach of contract if they acquire Covid-19 negligently in the course of their work.
Mr Moloney suggested businesses should get infection control experts to conduct risk assessments at their premises and make recommendations.
He said businesses should have a good defence against a claim if they can show they followed correct procedures.
"There are many different health and safety acts in Ireland which place very strong duties of care on employers to employees that the Government should introduce a grant-aided scheme to help employers provide risk assessments," said Mr Moloney.
Solicitor Ciara Ruane, a senior associate at Pinsent Masons, said she would be surprised if there weren't more workplace claims because of the virus. She said following HSE and Health and Safety Authority guidance would be key, as well as clear communications with staff.
Ms Ruane said employers should keep in mind rushing a return to work risks a resurgence of the virus. She urged caution about making long-term commitments to staff and said employers should make clear any return to work measures would continue to be reviewed and adapted in line with evolving guidance.
Earlier today, Business minister Heather Humphreys formally announced the Return to Work Safely Protocol this afternoon which will see temperature testing, no handshake and intensive cleaning policies.
The plans were developed in a "collaborative effort" by the Department of Business along with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, employers’ group Ibec and the Construction Industry Federation.
The Department of Health and the HSE were also involved and the Health and Safety Authority will enforce the rules.
The measures will have to be implemented in businesses, offices and construction sites.
"The protocol is mandatory and the HSA will be in charge of its oversights and implementation," said the minister at government buildings.
"This document sets the minimum measures required in every workplace."
"We all want businesses to reopen and people to get back to work," added the minister.
"We all want Ireland to get back to work but it has to happen safely."
The HSA will appoint inspectors to work "collaboratively" with employers to make improvements if necessary and workplaces will be ordered to shut down if they are not implemented.
Employers will be asked to develop a Covid-19 Business response plan prior to reopening which will address risk and its response to virus infections in the workplace.
The protocol also states that employees who will be returning to work will need additional support for stress caused by financial reasons, a death of a relative or difficulties with personal relationships.
They will also have to complete a pre-return to work form which will state that they have not been in contact with the virus.
Employers will then have to appoint a lead worker representative, who will be in charge of ensuring that health measures are "strictly adhered to" by staff.
There must also be induction training for all workers on public health guidance, how the workplace is organised to address risk, and any other relevant sector-specific advice.
The protocol urges for a no handshake policy to be implemented as well as temperature testing social distancing, hand sanitiser and tissue provision.
The wearing of face coverings is stated to be “not a replacement” for other hygiene measures.
According to the protocol, remote working should be encouraged and free office space should be used as isolation areas for staff who are exhibiting virus symptoms.
Under the protocols staff who display coronavirus symptoms during the working day will be directed to this designated isolation area by a manager.
Two-metre distance will have to be maintained as transportation is arranged for the worker to go home or to get medical attention and they will have to avoid public transport.
Logs of work groups will have to be put in place for contact tracing and a risk assessment of any incident would have to be carried out.
Plastic sneeze guards at workplaces where two-metre separation social distancing is not possible should also be put in place.
Some aspects of the protocol will vary from different workplaces but the document sets out "overarching principals" which must be followed.