Tradespeople can continue to work in people's homes under new restrictions announced by the Government last night.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said plumbers, electricians, builders, upholsterers and painters should take precautions when entering homes for work.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said homeowners should properly ventilate their home, wear a face mask and keep their distance while work is being carried out.

He also said business owners should show leadership and facilitate their employees working from home in a bid to stop the transmission of Covid-19.

Minister Harris said "we were very good at working from home" [at the start of the pandemic], but said he has noticed a lot more traffic on the roads recently.

He said employers need to keep their employees safe by allowing them to work from home where that is possible.

Mr Harris said the rule needs to be very straightforward: "If you can do your job from home, your employer should try and facilitate you to do that."

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Speaking later at TU Bolton Street, Minister Harris said it is hoped to train and upskill an additional 50,000 people into 2020/21 and one of the key areas will be in retrofitting.

He said funding is available to keep the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme going for a further six months and the Government is establishing an €8 million education disadvantage fund for the first time.

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Ibec criticises lack of consultation over Level 4

Employers' group Ibec has criticised the lack of consultation with the business sector ahead of the announcement of Level 4 restrictions in three counties.

However, it has welcomed confirmation that the definition of what is deemed essential retail under Level 4 has been extended and that construction will be able to continue.

Under Level 4 restrictions in the three impacted counties - Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan - only essential retail will be able to open.

But that list has been widened and includes shops selling takeaway food, food markets, pharmacies, banks, post offices, hardware stores as well as click and collect services at other retailers, where it can be appropriately managed within public health guidelines.

Under Level 4, physical attendance at workplaces is only permitted for those providing essential services, which can only be provided in person and a full list of these is also available on the Government's website.

The Government also reiterated that people in the rest of the country should only go into their workplaces if they cannot work from home.

However, Ibec said that while businesses understand the need for phased restrictions may be justified, it is disappointing that once again they are being subjected to them at such short notice.

Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said input from businesses should be sought in a structured manner prior to making such decisions and the continued dearth of communication is extremely worrying.

Level 4 closures a blow for border businesses

Duncan Graham, Managing Director of Retail Excellence, said there are 10 weeks left until Christmas - the most important period of the year for retailers for their turnover and profit.

Mr Graham said that restrictions at this time of the year are devastating for the industry in the border counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan and could result in up to 10,000 jobs being put at risk.

Up to 20% of the workforce is employed in retail in these counties, he added.

He said it was inevitable that the move will result in some businesses having to shut for good despite the introduction of the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) in this week's budget.

"It makes no sense to have retailers trading 'normally' in Northern Ireland whilst some of those trading south of the border will have to close," Mr Graham said.

"This move will only result in more shoppers going online to do their Christmas shopping," he added. 

"We have seen a big spike in online shopping this year and 70% of the money that is taken through purchases online goes out of the country," he added.

"We urge shoppers in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan who may be considering shopping online to shop with their local, Irish retailer and to avail of other services such as click and collect which should not be impacted by these restrictions," he added.

Additional reporting Will Goodbody