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Amendments to ‘essential services’ under new regulations

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Last week the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, signed Regulations to further aid Ireland’s fight against COVID-19. The purpose of these Regulations, the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) Regulations 2020, is to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of COVID-19.

These Regulations ‘underpin’ the Taoiseach’s measures which were announced on 27 March requiring people to stay at home and to avoid public gatherings.

These Regulations were originally in place from 8 to 12 April, with the position to be reviewed in line with recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer and the National Public Health Emergency Team.

As of 10 April, Ireland has extended its public health measures until 5 May. In light of this, the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 have been signed by Minister Harris, providing for the extension of the original Regulations until 5 May.

The Effect of these Regulations:
These Regulations provide that people should not leave their house without ‘reasonable excuse’. The attending and holding of public gatherings, for any purpose other than one of the reasons provided, are also prohibited.

One of the reasonable excuses provided for under these new Regulations is that of essential services. Clause 4.(2)(a) provides the following as a reasonable excuse for the purpose of a person leaving their home to:

provide, or assist in the provision of, an essential service, whether for remuneration or not”.

Clause 4(2)(m) defines the limited circumstances in which a person can access these essential services:

to access an essential service, or assist any other person residing in the relevant residence or a vulnerable person to access an essential service, where the access is immediately required and the applicable person, other person residing in the relevant residence or vulnerable person, as the case may be, cannot access the service concerned from the person’s place of residence”.

It is important to note that the definition of an ‘essential service’ has been amended under these new Regulations for the period from 8 April – 5 May. Therefore, it is important for any service provider who previously, under the Taoiseach’s guidance (discussed in our Employment Update of 2 April), categorised their service as essential, reconsiders their position in light of these new Regulations.

Please click here for updated definition of an ‘essential service’.

Next Steps
If you as an employer categorise your business as an ‘essential service’ under these Regulations, we would refer you to our Employment Update of 2 April to assist you in continuing to provide an essential service in accordance with government guidelines.


For further information on this article, please contact Patrick Walshe.

Article written with the assistance of Emily Reid.


Patrick Walshe