In response to COVID-19, the Irish government has introduced emergency legislation and a number of support measures for both employers and employees. These support measures include the introduction of a COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment in the amount of €350 per week to employees who had been laid off or dismissed as result of COVID-19. This payment is available until at least the 8th June 2020 and may be extended beyond this date.
The government also introduced a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme with effect from the 26th March, and the scheme is currently available for a period of 12 weeks from the date it was introduced (however, this may also be extended further). This scheme is available to employers from all sectors who have lost a minimum of 25% of turnover because of the pandemic and where employers can show that they are not in a position to pay wages and other outgoings fully. The scheme is available for employers who keep staff on payroll and employees can be temporarily laid off or they can be on reduced hours and/or pay. Under the scheme, varying levels of subsidy are paid directly to the employer, based on the employees' previous average take home pay in January and February 2020.
Return to Work
As restriction begin to ease, employers are starting to prepare for the return to work. Where possible, employers are encouraged to allow employees continue to work from home. Appreciating this will not be possible in all cases, the government has issued its Return to Work Safely Protocol, which sets out a number of mandatory obligations for employers when managing employees' return to work.
Under the protocol, employers must send a pre-return to work form to employees to complete, at least 3 days before they return to work. Before employees return to work, employers must also provide all employees with induction training; develop or update a business COVID-19 Response Plan; include in the plan a response to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19; include contingency measures to address increased rates of employee absenteeism and implement measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19; update occupational health and safety risk assessments and safety statement; take into account employees' individual risk factors (i.e. older workers; employees with underlying health conditions and pregnant employees); appoint at least one lead worker responsible for ensuring COVID-19 measures are strictly adhered to and provide that person with the necessary training.
In addition, employers must maintain a contact log to facilitate contact tracing; inform workers of the purpose of the log; display information on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, provide up to date information on public health advice and provide instruction to employees to follow if they develop symptoms of COVID-19 during work. Where reasonably possible and appropriate, employers should ensure adequate ventilation and provide employees with tissues, hand sanitizer, disinfectant and/or wipes; PPE, gloves, mask, clinical waste bags,
Contracts, policies and procedures should be reviewed in light of the current climate, addressing issues such as homeworking, altered working patterns, IT and data security and disciplinary penalties for COVID-19 related misconduct.
To support employers with their return to work planning, we have prepared a step by step guide on the key employment law considerations to be mindful of.
Please see our Republic of Ireland employment checklist for a step by step guide on the key measures to consider >
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