On Monday last the first stage of opening the country’s economy took place. The rights and wrongs of which sectors should be allowed to open and what risks emanate from these actions will be a debate that will continue for a long time. Genuine concerns and vested interests grapple for airtime in what will hopefully be honest contributions. Some other issues arise, such as: Cash flow for companies restarting their activities, Debt collection and Liability for business if workers or customers become infected.
Before any company commences its return to work activities, it will face the cost of training their staff for some of the new procedures required to implement before opening up. Of course, it won’t stop there as most premises will need to have some level of fit out to comply with guidelines and regulations. All of this expense is before, as in the case of a transport company, starts trading and may have to wait two months before a cent is collected. Problems will also arise for companies whose activities start to ramp up as business starts to increase. On the other side of the coin is the issue of collecting debts. Many companies may, in an effort of self-protection, slow payments. Even a short delay will have a very negative impact on the economy. Companies will need access to financial aid fast. This is not a time for studies, reports or consultants, the cure and vaccine is money, it must be administered now.
In the background there is some discussion about liability on a company if somebody could prove they were infected with the virus at a particular premises or workplace. No employer can be held liable for an employee becoming infected because of another person, customer or employees behaviour, inadvertent or otherwise. Everybody should be aware of and take all of the advice available from the Health Service Executive (HSE), Government websites and Public Notices, to reduce the risk to themselves. Anybody that has an underlying health condition that may complicate their recovery, should they become infected, must refer to their doctor for advice before moving out. It has to be remembered that Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious disease and is mainly transmitted when an infected person, coughs, sneezes or exhales droplets. These droplets are heavy and will fall. No employer could give an implicit guarantee that staff or customers attending their premises will not be infected because of the nature of the virus. In the same way, they could not have been held responsible had a staff member been infected with the flu in the past. Of course, companies must take all precautions possible and work within the Health & Safety Authority Guidelines and those of all Government agencies.