Pig processor hit by 75% absence rate during Covid's first wave

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Pig Processor Hit By 75% Absence Rate During Covid's First Wave
A major pig producer and processor, employing 1,200 workers in the State, had an absence rate at one stage of 75 per cent during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic last year
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Gordon Deegan

A major pig producer and processor, employing 1,200 workers in the State, had an absence rate at one stage of 75 per cent during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

The details emerged in a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication, where a worker claims that he tendered his resignation on April 2nd 2020, after he felt that he was pressurised to return to work without being medically certified as fit to do so.

The company told the WRC that in March 2020 it faced “significant challenges” due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Deemed to be an essential service to maintain continuity in the food supply chain,  the firm said it found itself in an unprecedented situation, and they had an internal crisis management team in place.  It engaged with all the relevant services to ensure that they provided a safe place of work and to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to employees and the wider community.

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The employer stated at this time it had an absence rate of around 75%, and they required up-to-date information and the Human Resources Manager was responsible for Covid Management and contacting all employees who were absent from work.

Self-isolate

At hearing, the employee stated that in March 2020 he was advised to self-isolate by the HSE Covid-19 helpline.  He stated that he did not have the “red flag” symptoms but was advised to self-isolate for a few days and if his symptoms got worse, he was advised to make telephone contact with the HSE Live system and he would have a revised triage assessment.

In response to the worker's claims, the employer submits that there was no indication that the HR manager was “acting outside of reasonable norm”, but was ensuring that the protocols in place as a result of Covid-19 were fully complied with in order to ensure the health and safety of staff and particularly because of the industry in which they operate.

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The employer also submitted that had the employee raised any issue in relation to the manner the communication took place, it would have taken appropriate steps to address any such concerns.

The employee worked as a maintenance technician at the company since December 2019, and at hearing the HR Manager presented the employee with an apology for any deficiencies in his communication and outlined that it was not his intention to demonstrate any lack of empathy.

The employee confirmed that this would be accepted and that he wished to move on with his life.

In his recommendation, WRC Adjudicator, John Harraghy recommended that the apology provided be accepted by the employee and that this concludes this matter.

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