A fundamental element of the response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic involved the provision of critical services. While a little over a half of the Irish workforce was required to work from home, the remaining workforce was expected to leave the relative safety of their homes to go to their workplace in order to keep our health services and economy functioning. We came to refer to this latter group of workers as “essential workers”, a term which we had little or no concept of prior to COVID-19.

On Thursday 18th January 2024, the UCD HRM and Employment Relations Group hosted a symposium to address the lessons to be learnt from the work experiences of essential workers during COVID-19. The symposium involved employer and union representatives, academics, researchers, commentators and public policy makers.

Photos from the symposium and the programme are provided below.

UCD Symposium 5
Professor Orla Feely, President of UCD, opening the symposium
UCD Symposium 1
Professor Tony Holohan (Adjunct Full Professor of Public Health, School of Health and Agricultural Sciences, UCD, and former Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health) in conversation with Dr Maria Belizon and Professor John Geary
UCD Symposium 3
Professor John Geary
UCD Symposium 2
Dr Maria Belizon, Professor Tony Holohan, Professor John Geary and Professor Orla Feely, President of UCD
UCD Symposium 4
Mr Paul MacFlynn (NERI) outlines the findings from the Working in Ireland Survey in respect of the work experiences and the well-being of essential workers

UCD Symposium 6

Prof. Tony Holohan, Prof. John Geary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha (General Secretary, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation), and Danny Dr Danny McCoy (CEO, Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation) 

Event Schedule







Meet and Greet


Welcome and opening address



The Working in Ireland Survey (WIIS)

Coffee/tea, main foyer of the Smurfit School Entrance Hall


Professor Orla Feely, President, University College Dublin, Professor Anne Keegan, Head of HRM&ER Group


Professor John Geary, Principal Investigator, WIIS



Essential Workers’ Experience of Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ireland: Evidence from WIIS

Dr Maria Belizon (ICADE - Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Madrid and Visiting Research Fellow at UCD) and Paul MacFlynn (Co-Director, Nevin Economic Research Institute)


The health of healthcare staff: A vital protection for public health

Professor Tony Holohan (Adjunct Full Professor of Public Health, School of Health and Agricultural Sciences, UCD, and former Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health)


What now for essential workers in healthcare after the pandemic?

Ms Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation



The consequences of the pandemic on work and employment in essential sectors: an employer perspective

Dr Danny McCoy, CEO, Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation



Reflections on the effects of COVID-19 on workers across different sectors of the economy and lessons learnt


Mr Owen Reidy, General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions



Round table discussion involving symposium participants and Q&A session dialogue with members of the audience


Moderator: Professor John Geary


Closing address

Professor Anthony Brabazon, Dean College of Business, UCD


A light lunch will be available in the foyer for participants and attendees of the symposium

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