Supermac's founder Pat McDonagh has warned of a "fear factor" among employers over Covid-19 personal injury claims and predicts insurance premiums are going to rise even further.
Mr McDonagh will today announce the creation of 120 jobs in Co Laois with the opening of the Portlaoise Plaza on Friday.
At a time when job losses and company closures are dominating the news, he says investing in local business has never been more important.
But he cautioned that significant challenges lie ahead because he believes the coronavirus crisis may pave the way for a whole new avenue of compensation claims.
"It's not easy when you learn of a solicitors' firm directly contacting people in a place where there was an outbreak to discuss bringing a case. That is what you are up against," he said. "Obviously there is a lot of health and safety protocol involved, which is necessary, but you would be worried about how it may leave you exposed in terms of insurance."
Mr McDonagh, who spearheaded the revival of the Alliance for Insurance Reform to fight rising costs, said the situation was "out of control".
"I think it has actually gotten worse and the new Government is going to need to act before it's too late," he said.
He added that employers had "worked tirelessly" to ensure the safe return to work of their staff.
"In these challenging times, the way we operate has changed completely," he said.
"We have put in place a plan that allows us to open gradually with the safety of staff and customers as our main focus."
The Galway man said he was thankful that none of his staff at the 116 outlets across the country contracted coronavirus, and while he said there was some anxiety among staff returning to work, they had "adapted extremely well".
"We had to delay the opening of the Portlaoise Plaza and I'm delighted it's opening as we were worried the year was going to turn out a disaster. It's good to be able to instil a bit of positivity in the area," he said.
Mr McDonagh was heavily criticised earlier this year for remarks he made about the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) being like "winning the lotto" for part-time workers.
But he said the point he had been trying to make was that people working full-time with children to support were getting the same as part-time workers, which he felt was disproportionate.
"It was a very serious issue and, unfortunately, the main story was lost in the controversy around my comments, which I was disappointed about," he said.
"I felt some people should have received more money and I stand over what I said at the time.
"You could never begrudge someone for not wanting to go back to work if they were making more through the PUP.
"But I just felt that it wasn't right that people with families weren't receiving more."
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