Summary of the Irish Government Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic regarding employees and other workers

Social Welfare and Sick Pay

  • The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020, brought into force by the Irish Government on Friday 20 March 2020, amended and extended social welfare legislation to provide additional income supports to people diagnosed with COVID-19 or required to self-isolate as a result of potential infection.
  • In the above circumstances, employees can claim the COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit payment of €350 per week for a maximum period of two weeks where required to self-isolate and a maximum period of ten weeks where they have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • An employee making a claim for the COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit payment will not be required to wait six days to apply, as is required in an application for normal Illness Benefit.
  • The usual PRSI thresholds for illness benefit and means test for supplementary welfare allowance are waived in the event of a medical direction to self-isolate or a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Employees

  • The Health Act 1947 (Section 31a – Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 provide that only workers deemed “essential” are permitted to physically attend the workplace until 5 May 2020.
  • An employee whose normal working week has decreased from five days to three days or less can apply to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for Short Time Work Support. This income payment support can be made for up to a maximum period of 234 days, and, in order to qualify the employee must be working three days or less from a full-time position, be under 66 years of age and have the necessary PRSI contributions.
  • Employees and self-employed persons who have been temporarily laid off from work can avail of the “COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment” which was introduced by the Irish Government on 13 March 2020. The rate of this payment was increased by the State from €203 per week to €350 per week on 24 March 2020.

Employers

  • The Irish Government has requested that employers continue paying their staff where possible and a “Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme” (“the Scheme”) has been introduced to assist them in this regard.
  • The Scheme replaces the previous “COVID-19 Employer Refund Scheme” that was implemented on 15 March 2020 and there is no requirement for employers to re-apply for the Scheme as they will be automatically moved to it.
  • The Scheme is available to employers who keep employees on payroll.
  • The Scheme makes provision for an employer to be refunded by the Revenue Commissioners up to 70 percent on the amount paid to each qualifying employee, capped at €410 per week. In order to qualify for the Scheme, employers must have experienced a 25 percent fall in turnover as a result of COVID-19.

Health & Safety

  • The Irish Health and Safety Authority has urged employers to ensure they are complying with their statutory obligations under the Safety, Health & Welfare Act 2005 (as amended) by monitoring the workplace in order to identify any potential sources of COVID-19 infection and to minimise further spread of the virus amongst personnel during the health crisis

Maternity Benefits

  • The Irish Government has advised pregnant employees who have lost work as a result of COVID-19 to apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment if their due date is within sixteen weeks or alternatively if it is more than sixteen weeks from the last day of work.
  • Pregnant women applying for Maternity Benefit should do so in the usual manner, which should ultimately replace the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment when maternity leave commences.
  • Conversely, if maternity leave has concluded and there is no employment to return as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an employee can avail of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Redundancy

  • In the normal circumstances, the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 (as amended), permits an employee, who meets certain qualifying criteria and has been laid off or placed on short-time work for four or more consecutive weeks or for six weeks in a thirteen week period, to serve a notice claiming redundancy on the employer. An employer can then serve a counter notice against the claim for redundancy, if it can provide the employee with thirteen weeks work without lay-off/short-time within four weeks of the employee’s notice.
  • The above statutory framework that permits an employee to claim a redundancy payment will not apply for the duration of the ‘emergency period’ (13 March 2020 – 31 May 2020), as outlined in the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020.

Global Responses

For information on responses from other countries globally, please CLICK HERE and follow the link to The Law Firm Network wesbite.

How we can help

If you have any queries or concerns, or would like to discuss the above in further detail, please feel free to contact Richard Lee, Partner, BHSM on 01 440 8300 / rlee@bhsm.ie.

This article is for general information purposes.  Legal advice must be obtained for individual circumstances.  Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, no liability is accepted by the author for any inaccuracies.

Insight

Latest News