Financial Services Essential Worker Clarification | March 2021

Following the changes made on Thursday 4th March 2021 that temporarily suspended financial services from the provision for childcare services, we have been asked to clarify some aspects around the essential worker criteria for financial services.

Date: Monday 08 March 2021

please see below some clarification direct from the Department for Enterprise on financial services essential workers….

Following the changes made on Thursday 4th March 2021 that temporarily suspended financial services from the provision for childcare services, we have been asked to clarify some aspects around the essential worker criteria for financial services.

Firstly, we would like to clarify that the removal of childcare access in no way suggests a lesser importance of financial services in the broader economy, merely that the number of children appearing in the schools had grown dramatically to the point of being unsustainable. The eligible categories remained unchanged from last March however a marked increase of children was apparent in situations where parents could, and were working from home, but were choosing to send their children into school to provide uninterrupted home working.

The immediate priority needed to be to protect critical front line services where there is no one else in the household to care for the child and the rules were generally strengthened in this regard. In addition, given the volume of employment in Financial Services and the fact that the vast majority of workers can, and do work from home, a temporary suspension of this category was also agreed.

Following this decision on Thursday, all childcare services were subsequently suspended from Friday for all sectors, and the priority will be to bring services back on focused on critical front line services and then expanded on a gradual basis when it is safe to do so. It is hoped financial services can come back in as this service returns as a priority and this will include specific areas where there must be a work place presence, such as critical payment functions and bank branch operations that are unable to work from home.

Secondly, on the point of staff who are unable to work from home due to their function, the Directions remain clear in that all employers must ensure staff who can work from home do so. This is the same provision has been used previously. It would appear however that there are a larger number of staff that are working in offices compared to March 2020 and given the current outbreak, employers are once again reminded that this should be minimum numbers of staff only to maintain essential operations.

We have been asked to clarify that removing financial services from the education list does not remove the ability to allow a small number of staff to attend the workplace for essential operations that cannot be undertaken remotely. The Directions which cover access to childcare facilities is a separate requirement to that which covers workplace premises and consequently removing access from the educational list does not prohibit the need for some staff to attend workplace under exceptional circumstances.

There is general provision to ensure that financial services firms, and other businesses, can have a small number of staff who can attend the workplace for the continuity of essential operations referred to in the Directions as “a minimum number of staff to maintain essential operations, or to prepare the business for re-opening in line with any Government directions, shall be permitted to attend the premises.”

Consequently for critical functions such as branch services or payments, where the employer determines these are essential operations that cannot be undertaken from home, workplace attendance is allowed.

There are clearly additional responsibilities on the employer to ensure minimum numbers of staff, measures taken to reduce risk of transmission and a requirement to follow any additional guidance that is approved and all employers are asked to give extra vigilance to ensure that only minimum numbers of staff do attend any workplace and strong mitigations are in place at all times.

Guidance can be found at www.gov.im/covid and the latest Directions can be found at https://www.gov.im/media/1372043/closure-direction-premises.pdf