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What is required under H&S legislation?

The general provisions of the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act of 2005 makes no specific mention of employers’ obligations to support the return to work of employees following injury or ill health.  However, it does contain a number of general provisions that require the provision of working conditions that are not dangerous to health.  For example, in Section 8 of the Act (General duties on employers), it states that the employer’s duty, so far as is reasonably practicable extends to:

  • Managing and conducting work activities in such a way as to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees
  • Managing and conducting work activities in such a way as to prevent any improper conduct or behaviour likely to put the safety, health or welfare at work of his or her employees at risk;
  • For place of work, ensuring that:
    • the design, provision and maintenance of it in a condition that is safe and without risk to health,
    • the design, provision and maintenance of plant and machinery or any other articles that are safe and without risk to health;
  • Providing systems of work that are planned, organised, performed, maintained and revised as appropriate so as to be, safe and without risk to health;
  • Providing the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure the safety, health, and welfare at work of employees;
  • Determining and implementing the safety, health and welfare measures necessary for the protection of the safety, health and welfare of employees

(source: http://www.hsa.ie/eng/Legislation/Acts/Safety_Health_and_Welfare_at_Work/SI_No_10_of_2005.pdf)

These provisions do not specifically mention the situation where an employee returns to work following injury or illness, but they clearly state that the health and safety of all employees should be maintained regardless of health status.

Equality legislation also is relevant – the Human Rights and Equality Commission provide guidance in this area.  At the core of their advice is the requirement that employers cannot discriminate against individuals on the basis of health or disability.  Two specific guides that they have produced deal with advice to employers on:

  • Disability
  • Mental health

https://www.ihrec.ie/guides-and-tools/human-rights-and-equality-for-employers/what-does-the-law-say/disability-and-reasonable-accommodation/

https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/download/pdf/equality_and_mental_health___what_the_law_means_for_your_workplace.pdf

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