RBK HR Solutions - Covid-19 Update

In this article, we provide you with the latest updates in relation to HR and employment legislation:

COVID-19 Vaccine

Now that the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine is underway in Ireland, employers are asking if they can insist that their employees receive the vaccine.

While it is open to employers to strongly encourage employees to take the vaccine, it is important to highlight they cannot insist that their employees receive it. Under the Irish Constitution, citizens of Ireland have a right to the protection of their bodily integrity, and mandating employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may be seen as an infringement to that right, however health and safety obligations should prevail.

Employers will need to carry out, or update a risk assessment to determine how necessary it is for their business to have their employees vaccinated e.g. in situations such as healthcare or food manufacturing/processing settings, risk assessments will determine that it is necessary for employees to receive the vaccine. The results of the risk assessment should be communicated to employees and the employer Safety Statement should be updated to reflect this.

An employee may oppose receiving the vaccine on grounds which they are protected against under Employment Equality Legislation, such as their religion, a disability or pregnancy, for example. An employer who insists these categories of employees receive the vaccine may be at risk of a direct or indirect discrimination claim.

Some employees may wish to continue to work from home, even if the guidelines are amended to permit a general return to the workplace. Employers should consider if working from home is to be facilitated going forward and should update policies on working from home accordingly.

Parent's Leave Update 2020

The Government has announced the extension of Parent’s Leave from two weeks to five weeks, for each parent after their child’s birth or adoption. Under the Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019, Parent’s Leave is to be taken within the first year of a child’s life, however this period will be extended to the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child. New legislation for the extension of the paid Parent’s Leave is expected to be operational by April 2021. The leave is available to parents whose child was born on or after 1st November 2019.

Parent’s Leave is in addition to existing Maternity, Adoptive and Paternity Benefits.

Illness Benefit Update 2021

Illness Benefit is a scheme to support employees who cannot work in the short term due to illness. To qualify for Illness Benefit you must be certified as unfit for work due to illness, be under the age of 66 and must satisfy the Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) conditions. The current waiting period to apply for illness benefit is six days. It was announced in Budget 2021 that the number of waiting days for Illness Benefit will be reduced from 6 days to 3 days on new claims. This will come in to effect from the end of February 2021. Illness Benefit is paid by the Department of Social Protection (DSP). Employers are advised to update their sick leave policy in relation to this change.

Please do not hesitate to contact Yvonne Clarke, HR Solutions Manager should you require further details on any of the above.

Yvonne Clarke

HR Solutions Manager

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