Is the Citizens Information Service fully open to the public?
We are currently open behind closed doors and providing our service by phone and email. It is the same information, advice and advocacy service we have always provided. It is free, confidential and non-judgmental. If an emergency appointment is required, some of our centres are in a position to offer this on a limited basis within public health guidelines. It is always best to give us a call and we will talk through the query and the best way of assisting you.
Can we travel at the moment?
Under current public health guidelines, you can travel anywhere in Ireland. However, there are restrictions on travelling into and out of Ireland.
You should not travel to Ireland unless you have an essential reason. I asked the Department of Foreign Affairs recently “What exactly is considered to be essential travel?” Their response was that they indicated any reason that falls within a family emergency, travel for work and medical need. They did stress that a social visit is never essential travel. Examples would be travel to care for a relative or exercising your legal right to see a child or a family funeral.
If you have to travel, you must have proof of a negative or ‘not detected’ (RT-PCR) test taken within 72 hours of your arrival and you will have to fill out a passenger locator form. You will also have to quarantine when you arrive.
What about leaving Ireland?
There are similar rules for leaving Ireland but that is going to change from the 19th of July when the digital certificate is introduced. Until then however it is important to remember we can still be fined up to €2000 for non-essential travel.
What is the Digital Certificate?
From 19 July 2021, Ireland plans to operate the EU Digital Covid Certificate for travel originating within the EU and EEA. The certificate will show one of 3 things, you are:
- Vaccinated against COVID-19
- Recovered from COVID-19 in the past 9 months, or
- Have a negative RT-PCR test result taken no more than 72 hours before arrival
It’s going to allow us some freedom of movement at last.
Is this going to include the UK?
The answer at this time is No.
Right now, a person travelling from Ireland to the UK does not need a negative Covid test or to quarantine on travel to the UK. However, this does not work both ways. If you are travelling from the UK to Ireland you do need a negative pcr test and you do need to quarantine on arrival. The only exception is if your journey starts in Northern Ireland.
This could all change closer to the time depending on public health advice.
What if I have to cancel my package holiday because of government advice on non-essential travel?
You have more rights as a consumer if you have booked a package holiday than the flights and accommodation separately. You must meet the criteria though.
A package holiday must last longer than 24 hours and include two of the following; Transport, accommodation, car rental and travel excursions.
You have the right to cancel your booking for free, before the start of the holiday, in the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances. This includes disease or serious conditions at the destination.
If you want to cancel a holiday that is outside of the Government’s travel restrictions, you are not guaranteed a refund. In this case, check the terms and conditions of your contract for information on cancellations.
What if the flights are still operating?
Package holiday legislation protects your right to a full refund in certain circumstances including:
- In the event of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances
- Where a significant part of your package holiday has been affected.
What if a travel operator offers a credit note, do you have to take it?
No, you don’t have to take it, you can still insist on a full refund. Credit notes are State guaranteed though so you won’t be at a loss if you accept it. You can always exchange it for its cash value 9 months from the date it was issued if you haven’t used it.
BANK HOLIDAY ENTITLEMENTS
A lot of employees are returning to work, will they be entitled to the August Bank Holiday?
We’re asked this a lot at the moment. During lay off or short-time working, you are still employed by your employer. This means that you are entitled to benefit for any public holidays that occur during the first 13 weeks of lay off. Part-time employees must have worked at least 40 hours in the 5 weeks before the public holiday.
As we have more than 5 weeks until the next bank holiday weekend it is likely anyone who has returned to work will have an entitlement to some form of benefit.
Whether you are a full time or part time employee, if you normally work on a bank holiday you will benefit from that day off. If you do not normally work on that particular day, then you should receive one fifth of your weekly pay or time off in lieu.
If you are required to work that day, you should receive an additional day’s pay.
What if I am on sick leave?
If you are a full-time worker on sick leave during a public holiday, you are entitled to benefit from the public holiday. In this case your employer can choose to pay you as normal so your bank holiday entitlement is covered.
If you are a part-time worker you may have an entitlement. Again, if you have worked 40 hours in the previous 5 weeks.
I would suggest that anyone that has queries on holiday entitlements should give us a call. We are always on the end of the phone to offer information and advice.
Outreach Talks Online
If you are part of a local group or organisation and would like to get an Information Officer to speak to you online about the rights and entitlements of your target group, please contact Fermoy or Mallow to request an outreach talk. Staff may be able to tailor a presentation suitable to your group needs and follow up with a Question & Answer session.
For anyone needing information, advice or who have an advocacy issue, they can call a member of the local Citizens Information team in Fermoy on 0761 07 7970, they will be happy to assist and make an appointment if necessary. The offices are staffed on Monday & Tuesday from 9am to 5pm and on Wednesday and Thursday to Friday from 9am to 1pm. Their email is email@example.com.
Alternatively, you can contact Mallow CIC on 0761 07 8000. Staff are available to take your calls from 9am to 5pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Fridays as well as from 9am to 12.30pm on Tuesdays. You can email your query to firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie for further information and contact details.
Karen Crowley is an Information Officer with South Munster Citizens Information Service, based at Mallow CIC with a focus on Travel, Consumer Rights and Bank Holiday Entitlements