There has been much uncertainty as a result of the spread of the Corona virus and this has impacted in the sphere of employment law. Both employers and employees are concerned as to their rights and obligations.
The situation is fluid and changes will occur as matters advance. Already we see the Government trying to come to grips with the various difficulties arising for both employers and employees.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection are introducing measures to provide income support to people affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
The new legislative measure will provide the following:
- The rate of State sick pay will be increased from €203, per week (current maximum) to €305 per week, for up to two weeks absence with medical certification.
- Sick pay will be payable from the first day of absence i.e. the usual 6 day waiting period will be waived.
- State sick pay will be available for the self-employed.
- A minimum number of PRSI contributions is not required in order to be eligible for the payment.
- All other existing State sick pay arrangements will continue to apply, including payments workers receive in respect of dependent adults.
- State sick pay benefit may be made payable retrospectively to the date of the announcement.
These measures will go some way to alleviate the difficulties that arise, but they are far from complete. The Government State sick pay measures as announced do not appear to deal with voluntary self-isolation, where a worker is not medically certified as being required to do so. Therefore, employers are not obliged to pay wages and salaries of those employees who either wish to self- isolate or cannot come into work for other reasons such as childcare as a result of the school closures or the need to care for a sick relative at home.
Employees who cannot come to work for reasons other than being unwell themselves may take time off by agreement with their employers. There is no obligation on an employer to pay wages/salaries for this type of leave (apart from holiday pay, if the leave is taken as holiday leave by agreement with the employer). If holiday pay is paid during this period it uses up your holiday allocation.
If you are out of work because you are sick your entitlement to payment by your employer is dependant on your contract of employment. If you are out sick because of the Covid 19 virus you can get social welfare as outlined above.
The Government has suggested businesses make up the pay gap difference between the employees usual wages and the Sate Sick pay but that is for the discretion of the employer.
If there is a down turn in business an employer may require members of staff to go on reduced hours and/or require temporary lay -offs. The provisions of your terms/ contract of employment may deal with this. Should it arise an employee may have an entitlement to redundancy.
A number of income supports are available from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for people whose employers do not continue to pay them during a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) related absence or temporary lay-off from work.
In considering how to respond to questions arising as a consequence of Covid-19 employers and employees are directed in the first instance to the public health advice issued by the HSE, available on its website www.HSE.ie . It is essential that all individuals and employers abide by this advice, as well as updates from the World Health Organisation. Both employers and employees have obligations to each other and to others in the work place and it is important that all parties would recognise that fact in carrying out day to day functions. Doing so should ease difficulties in the work place and minimise the risk of grievance and or disciplinary action further down the road.
If you would like to discuss the potential impact of this issue on your business, please contact a member of our team.
Emma Meagher Neville