Minister for Employment Affairs and Retail Businesses Damien English TD invited CSNA CEO to meet with him and officials from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment to discuss how CSNA members were managing in these troubled times.
The CEO provided the Minister with examples of the levels of stress and strain that all members and their employees were encountering whilst providing an acknowledged essential service. We made the Minister aware that the past few weeks have been particularly difficult , not only because of the mandatory face covering Rules, but also the fact that we are 6 months into the pandemic and do not see an early return to “normal”. The CEO asked the Minister to consider the provision of a Mental Health programme for all retailers and staff.
Following on from a series of queries that CSNA had requested the Department to put to Health, the Minister has accepted that retailers are NOT expected or obliged to confront any customers entering a store without a mask. Furthermore, the CEO has asked the Minister to provide written confirmation from Health that accepts that “extreme distress” is NOT a disability, something that Health have verbally asserted but haven’t committed it to writing. There is a grave concern from HR and Employment Law experts that an employer or shop owner could be accused of Equality Law discriminatory behaviour if they fail to accept the “right” of someone not to wear a covering due to the “extreme distress “ dispensation in the Regs.
Covid Illness Benefit
The Minister agreed with the CEO that the absence of a payment to people awaiting the results of Covid Testing, either for themselves or their children needs to be addressed and committed to raising the issue with Minister Heather Humphreys TD at DEASP.
The meeting also discussed the VAT reductions, the EWSS, the need to include the decline in profits rather than the decline in turnover when designing relief schemes and the importance of ensuring that existing problems such as insurance, local authority rates and Valuations and the struggle for survival of small and medium sized family businesses were foremost in the minds of the Department.
It is refreshing to note the importance that the past 3 Governments have given to the retail industry, culminating in the appointment of a Minister for State for Retail matters. Consultation and sharing of viewpoints are essential in an open economy such as ours.