What are the top priorities employers should be focusing on in the current situation?
Focus on planning and prevention measures, employers need to be ready to move quickly, have plans in place to protect staff and plan for business continuity should they need to close suddenly. Establishing a Taskforce consisting of key personnel will help keep focus and keep on top of advice as the situation is evolving daily.
All employers have a statutory duty of care for the health and safety of their employees at work. Keep your employees informed on the steps you have taken to protect them and the necessary preventative and protective measures they also need to be taking. Employers should follow the official guidelines provided by the Government and the HSE.
Use social distancing and limit the number of staff in the workplace, establish a rota system if it is necessary for some employees to be onsite.
Consider remote working where employees could work from home. Consider giving a laptop to employees who wouldn’t normally have access.
Plan for absences and what protocol you are taking with staff on the different types of leave. Employers will have to navigate many scenarios with employees, for example, a staff member is out sick with a confirmed case of COVID-19;or an employee may have to self isolate; care for a family member; or someone refuses to come into work. Employers need to ensure they manage these situations and know their obligations with regard to leave and pay entitlements, etc. Our HR Team will guide you through how to manage each issue.
The Government has introduced a range of enhanced supports to employees where they may be affected by illness or layoffs due to the impact of COVID-19.
When an employee has been told to self-isolate by a doctor or has tested positive for Covid-19, they can apply for an enhanced Illness Benefit payment. The Illness Benefit payment has increased from the normal payment of €203 per week to an increased rate of €305 per week and will be available from the first day of illness rather than after six days, and conditionality will be waived to allow self-employed to receive it. There will be no minimum number of PRSI contributions, but medical certification will be required. If an employee has decided to self-isolate as a precaution without guidance from the HSE or a medical professional, your normal sick pay policy will apply.
Under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967–2014, a lay-off situation arises where an employer is unable to provide work for their employees, but believes this to be a temporary situation and gives notification of the lay off before the work finishes. Employees, who are temporarily laid off due to the reduction in business activity as a result of Covid-19, can apply for the pandemic unemployment payment.
Short-time working is defined under the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 - 2014 as where an employee’s working week decreases to less than half of his/her normal weekly hours, or his/her pay is less than half of his/her normal take home pay, and the situation is not considered permanent. Employees, who are put on short-time working due to a reduction of business activity as a result of Covid-19, may apply for a Short Time Work Support payment.
Employers who have reserved the right to place employees on lay-off or short time working in their contracts of employment may utilise this clause if necessary. Otherwise, express agreement should be sought from the employees. For more information or to apply for one of the benefits please visit www.mywelfare.ie or contact a member of our team.
This new payment will be available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to a downturn in economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This payment will be paid for a period of 6 weeks at a rate of €203 per week for jobseekers. This payment has been designed to quickly deliver a social welfare payment to the unemployed and provide income security during this 6-week period. Individuals applying for the payment will be required to apply for the normal jobseeker’s payments within this 6-week period. Once this normal jobseeker claim is received, the social welfare department will process these claims and accommodate payments at that time. To apply or for more information please click here.
For further information on the above, please contact Aine Dunne, HR Consultant.
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