COVID-19 PANDEMIC – INFORMATION FOR EMPLOYERS

The aim of the government during this pandemic is to help employers keep as many of their staff on their payroll as possible. A number of schemes have been put in place over the last two weeks to help employers deal with the unprecedented economic fallout from the spread of Covid-19.

  1. Temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme – employers must show that at least 25% of their trade has been lost and they will then be able to claim 70% of their employee’s net wage back (up to a maximum of €410) through the scheme. The scheme is operated by Revenue and employers are expected to make their best efforts to maintain as close to 100% of normal income during the operation of the scheme.   Employers are also encouraged by the government, where possible, to top up their employee’s wages to maintain them at their current level of earnings.
  2. Short Time Work Support Scheme – if an employer needs to place their staff on a shorter working week or where they have had to cut their hours due to the pandemic, the employees can apply for this scheme.   Short Time Work Support is a form of Jobseeker’s Benefit and is a payment made in respect of the employee’s regular salary for the days they are no longer working. Employees must be working three days per week or less and also must have the required number of PRSI contributions in order to qualify.
  3. Recruitment Supports – if you are an employer looking to recruit staff in the following sectors:-
  • Medical/pharma
  • Healthcare
  • Retail/general operatives
  • Agri-food
  • Logistics/driving

the Employer Relations National Team is actively helping employers to recruit in these sectors during the pandemic.   The Employer Engagement Contact List has details of all of the local employer relations divisions.

There are a range of supports available for your employees during the pandemic:-

  1. Employees who must self-isolate – For employees who are not diagnosed with Covid-19, but are required to self-isolate they can apply for illness benefit for Covid-19 absences. The payment will be made for a maximum of two weeks and the employee must remain confined in self-isolation in their home or a medical facility. In the unfortunate event that they are diagnosed with Covid-19, they will be entitled to the payment for up to ten weeks.
  2. Supplementary Welfare Allowance – if the employee is in receipt of the enhanced illness benefit for Covid-19 absence and the employer does not pay sick leave beyond the level paid by the State and the employee finds themselves in financial difficulty, they can apply for additional emergency income support. The supplementary welfare allowance is means tested.
  3. Workers who are requested to stay at home by their employer, but are unable to work from home, can apply for the pandemic unemployment payment of €350 per week.
  4. Caring for a person with Covid-19 – if your employee is required to take time off work to care for a person who has contracted Covid-19, they are entitled to apply for the Illness benefit for Covid-19 absences.
  5. Force Majeure Leave – employees are entitled to force majeure leave to provide urgent care to an immediate family relative (child, spouse, sibling, parent or grandparent). They are entitled to 3 days of force majeure leave within a 12 month period, or 5 days within a 36 month period. Given the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, employers are being encouraged to facilitate employees as much as possible by allowing them to take the full 5 days of leave within one block.
  6. Parental Leave – parents are entitled to take up to 22 weeks unpaid leave to care for each child up to 12 years of age, 16 years of age for a child with a disability, with 6 weeks’ notice required however employers have the discretion to waive the notice periods. Parents can also take two weeks of leave for each child under the age of 1 year born on or after the 1st of November 2019 and are entitled to receive Parent’s Benefit for the two weeks.

There is due to be an amendment made to the Redundancy Payment Act 1967 under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020 such that Section 12 of the Act will not have effect during the ‘emergency period’ between the 13th March 2020 and the 31st May 2020. The amendment will ensure that employees who have been laid-off or put on short time will not be able to seek redundancy payments during the ‘emergency period’ to avoid a situation where employers find themselves unable to pay redundancy claims where cash-flow may be severely restricted as a result of the pandemic. The amendment ensures that Section 12 ‘shall not have effect during the emergency period in respect of an employee who has been laid off or kept on short-time due to the effects of measures required to be taken by his or her employer in order to comply with, or as a consequence of, Government policy to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of infection of Covid-19’.

Watch this space for further updates once the Bill has passed.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, it has been provided for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.  Amorys Solicitors is a boutique commercial and private client law firm in Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland.