Return to work call questioned by Antrim and Newtownabbey staff

Antrim and Newtownabbey council staff have questioned an instruction to return to work in the borough’s civic buildings, councillors have been told.
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Dunsilly SDLP Councillor Ryan Wilson highlighted the issue at a meeting of the borough council’s Policy and Governance Committee on Wednesday evening.

Cllr Wilson said that that the issue had come to light “in relation to a number of staff who have been instructed to return back to the office”.

“Staff have been querying if councillors have made this decision,” he stated.

Antrim Civic Centre.Antrim Civic Centre.
Antrim Civic Centre.

Cllr Wilson indicated that the last decision on the matter was taken at the Policy and Governance Committee meeting last May when it was agreed that staff should return to offices “subject to Executive guidance change” to Covid restrictions.

“Executive guidance to work from home if you can  is still in place,” he noted.

Cllr Wilson asked if staff have been instructed to return to the office.

Debbie Rogers, Director of Organisation Development, told the meeting: “In relation to communication with staff, this is ongoing communication.

“We will continue to return staff incrementally. Over 91 per cent of staff will have returned to offices. There is still a small number of staff working in hybrid transition.

“This relates to direction taken in May. A small number of exemptions may need some time to make adjustments to do that and carry out appropriate meetings with staff – staff with medical needs that may need further engagement at this stage.”

Cllr Wilson continued: “In terms of Executive guidance, where staff can work from home, they should do so, why are we not following that?”

He was told by the director: “This has been the position of council since May. This is the same approach we have continued to take.”

Northern Ireland Executive advice remains that people should continue to work from home if they can.

Employers should consult with their employees to determine who needs to come into the workplace. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk. This includes vulnerable people, the clinically extremely vulnerable and pregnant workers.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter