COVID-19 Emergency Working Group Meeting Notes 17/6/2020

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 18 June 2020 Issues covered: Coronavirus/COVID-19

The NI CBI Covid-19 Emergency working group meets regularly to discuss matters relating to the Coronavirus pandemic for NI Employers. The notes below are from the most recent meeting.

General re-start feedback 

  • Office returns increasingly thought about, some firms slower than others.
  • Shared amenities for office workers, lifts etc – particularly toilets are an issue.
  • Job Retention Scheme – part-time vs full time furloughing - challenges with administration of part-time so preference is full time
  • One company reported seeing some significant drops in global market demand
  • Wage reviews currently emerging as a live issue for many, - were in some cases deferred from April to Oct. With inflation so low, revenues down – going to be awkward conversation with unions.

2m Vs 1 meter

  • the economic benefits of moving to 1m would far out way the cost of recently purchased signage stating 2m rule etc
  • Some retail companies preparing for any change by investing in signage stating “respect distancing rules" 


  • firms reporting, they are surprised by number of employees planning on taking a foreign holiday
  • Having to remind people on government advice – will impact annual leave
  • 10 days annual leave must be taken before return to office
  • Huge issue for production if they wish to take more time off to quarantine after (people who cannot work from home)
  • Hard to discriminate against those who cannot work from home.
  • Often it is the essential workers who have done extra hours to cope with production pressures, need the break and wish to go abroad.
  • Also quarantine is an issue for customer-facing staff, particularly those who normally demonstrate technology etc in export markets
  • Unions starting to make noise about employees being penalised for quarantine.
  • At previous meeting it was noted that some fear amongst employers that EU nationals may not return to NI because of quarantine.


• Only people not back in some firms are those with childcare barriers.

Agri- food specific 

  • Good to see level of calmness across sites -operating well.
  • Thermo imaging and other safety measures in place -all working well.
  • Making the protocol work has become a very urgent issue – keen to engage in NIO business engagement forum on the Protocol
  • Quarantine has risen up the agenda faster than anticipated


  • Brexit rising concern.
  • Firms need to get goods into GB without delay and GB competitors nipping heals.
  • This is budget season for some firms and decisions have to be made in next 8/10 weeks on where investment will be made – if Protocol does not allow easy access from NI to GB, then one plant noted that production in GB plants will have to ramped up and simultaneously run down in NI plants.


  • Perhaps a slower to return for office workers than others. Piloting office opening and taking learnings to other sites.
  • Hope to have most back by end June
  • Good to see DfE medium term plan for economic recovery with a green focus


  • One firm noted that able to get customers through store faster with separate ‘in’ and ‘out’ doors.
  • More people on tills to get people out faster
  • Forecourt volumes up 75% - expect volumes will increase further in coastal areas from next week.
  • Toilets will be last part of unlocking for customers & staff – need to figure out how to open them safely
  • Surveying 550 office staff on working from home – would like 50% of them back by end August – don’t want more that 75% of office workers back
  • Need agility due to risk of second wave


This article is correct at 18/06/2020

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