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‘Mayhem’ in the office as vaccinated avoid getting too close to the unjabbed

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People who have been vaccinated are keeping their distance from colleagues who have refused inoculation. Photo: Reuters/Stephane Mahe.

People who have been vaccinated are keeping their distance from colleagues who have refused inoculation. Photo: Reuters/Stephane Mahe.

People who have been vaccinated are keeping their distance from colleagues who have refused inoculation. Photo: Reuters/Stephane Mahe.

One of Ireland’s leading employment lawyers has said vaccinated employees have begun reducing physical contact in the workplace with unvaccinated colleagues.

Richard Grogan was speaking as the phased return to work continues, with remaining restrictions due to be lifted on October 22.

“We are already getting cases coming in where vaccinated employees will not talk to non-vaccinated employees other than to do with matters directly related to work. It is already beginning to kick off,” he said.

“It’s a limited boycott. They will do what they have to do work-wise, but they are not going out to lunch with these people and they are not including them in their usual informal activities.

“They are making it very clear they don’t want anything to do with a non-vaccinated person.”

Mr Grogan said Ireland’s workplace safety protocols, which enable staff to refuse to disclose their vaccination status and entitles workers to refuse antigen testing, “is going to cause mayhem” for employers when people fully return to work.

“A staff member can refuse an antigen test and there is nothing an employer can do about it,” he said.

Criticising the Government’s Return to Work protocol, he said it was a “free-for-all” that has left employers “pulling their hair out” due to the lack of legislation.

“There are no rules, only guidelines,” he said. “Pontius Pilate would be proud of what the Government has done. They have effectively washed their hands of all responsibility and made it all about ‘personal responsibility’.”

Ireland’s approach is in stark contrast to Italy’s. The government there has approved some of the strictest anti-Covid measures in the world, making it obligatory for all workers to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection from October 15.

Mr Grogan also warned companies will now be able to discontinue even the most basic health and safety measures in their workplaces.

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“At the moment, the employer has to keep all employees two metres apart and continue with hand sanitising and desk cleaning, but come October 22 they don’t. From that date, none of it will be backed up by legislation.

“The employer can turn around and say, ‘That hand sanitiser is becoming a bit expensive. I don’t think I’ll continue with that’.”

First published last year, the work safely protocol has been developed in consultation with employers and trade unions through the Labour Employer Economic Forum.

The main updated advice centres on information on ventilation in workplaces.

In the US, in a situation that workplace consultants are calling “the great wait”, January has become the new target date for the return-to-office movement.

Last month, two-thirds of companies said they will delay reopening as the Delta variant takes hold. These include Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Starbucks, who have postponed their return until next year.


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