News and advice
This news article includes the latest coronavirus updates employers need to be aware of, as well as links to further guidance on particular issues.
For instant answers to all your questions, speak to one of our advisors on 01 886 0350 or request a callback.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced a reopening schedule for business and society on April 29th that sets out how different business sectors will reopen in May and June. The announcement allows employers to target specific dates as they prepare for a safe reopening.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar signed the Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Disconnect (the Code) on 1st April. Coming into force with immediate effect, the stated purpose of this new Code is to provide guidance to employers, employees, and their representatives in relation to the Right to Disconnect.
To find out more, read our article.
The Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021 sees working parents receive three weeks of additional parent’s leave. Read our article to find out how this legislation may affect your business.
Level 5 restrictions are set to remain in place nationally until April 5th.
Key employer takeaways
The main points for employers include:
- Work from home should continue where possible.
- Phased reopening of schools to begin on Monday, March 1st.
- ECCE childcare scheme to resume on Monday, March 8th.
- The current 5km limit will remain in place.
A new code of practice on preventing bullying in the workplace quietly came into effect at the end of 2020. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) have worked together to produce a unified code of practice encompassing both employment law and health & safety compliance.
The ‘Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work’ repeals the two separate codes of practice that were in place.
Read more about this new code in our article.
The Irish Government has launched ‘Making Remote Work’, the country’s new National Remote Work Strategy. This will give employees the right to request remote working arrangements. However, it’s not an absolute right. Employers may refuse a request once they have a justifiable reason to do so.
The announcement further confirms that Government policy is now directed towards making these kinds of working arrangements part of working life post-COVID-19. After what has been a difficult 12 months for SMEs, the timing of this update will be another compliance challenge for employers toward the end of the year.
The Irish Government has confirmed that the country will return to stricter Level 5 restrictions until January 31st, 2021.
The key changes are:
- All non-essential retail must close from COB December 31st.
- The 5km travel limit will be back in place.
- Restaurants and bars serving food will remain closed (open for takeaway and delivery services only).
- ‘Wet pubs’ or pubs only serving alcohol, will remain closed.
- Gyms and other fitness facilities will close from COB December 31st along with outdoor golf and tennis.
- Cinemas and galleries remain closed, with libraries accessible online.
- Schools will remain closed until January 11th, 2021.
On Friday, November 27th, the Irish Government announced that the country will move to Level 3 on the Living with COVID-19 Plan, with retail and personal services reopening on Tuesday, December 1st, and the hospitality sector reopening on Friday, December 4th.
The Government confirmed that the entire country will move to the highest Level 5 restrictions on the Living with COVID-19 Plan from midnight Wednesday, October 21st.
The restrictions are set to stay in place for six weeks with a review after four weeks. Tighter restrictions on work and travel will mean a return to working from home for many and thousands of job losses.
The Government imposed Level 3 restrictions on midnight October 6th, a move which is bad news for businesses nationwide.
The ‘Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19’ has been announced by the Government.
The plan outlines five Levels put in place to manage living with COVID-19 over the next six to nine months. The Government hopes it will help the country “…move on from a short-term emergency response approach to a medium-term approach to managing risk and repairing the damage that COVID-19 has inflicted on society.”
Read our article to learn how the new plan will affect your business.
The Government announced the July Jobs Stimulus plan in late July. Part of the plan was the introduction of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), which came into effect in place of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) on September 1st.
While the EWSS and TWSS are similar, some qualifying criteria changes have been made.
The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme ceased on August 31st. It has been replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) which has been available to employers since the pay period began on July 1st. The EWSS will remain in place until March 31st, 2021.
Check the eligibility criteria to see if your business qualifies for the new scheme.
The Government has announced a number of measures to curtail the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and underlined the importance of businesses adhering to the Return to Work Safely Protocol. The Government also specified that employees should continue to work from home and avoid using public transport until September 13th.
Other measures announced include the requirement of restaurants, cafes, and pubs that serve food to close by 11:30pm and adhere to strict health & safety measures. Indoor and outdoor gathering numbers have also been reduced while sporting events must now take place behind closed doors.
Furthermore, the Government will finalise and publish a Roadmap for Resilience and Recovery before September 13th which will include advice for those living in a local lockdown.
Minister Simon Harris has launched a new incentive scheme to encourage employers to take on more apprentices. Employers who participate in the scheme could receive as much as €3,000.
One key part of the Government’s July Jobs Stimulus plan is Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS). Provided your business meets certain eligibility criteria, you’ll be entitled to receive a flat-rate wage subsidy for each eligible employee on your payroll.
The Irish Government has unveiled the “July Job Stimulus”, outlining economic recovery measures it hopes will mitigate the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on businesses.
Our article discusses some of the key employment-related measures.
As trading conditions remain uncertain for businesses throughout the island of Ireland, restructuring is an option many business owners are considering. If restructuring is something you’re thinking about, there are a number of risks to consider.
The HSE’s new COVID-19 Contact Tracing App has been downloaded by over one million people in Ireland since July 6th. But how does it affect employers?
Our article explains just that.
The childcare sector has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some reports suggest that only 60% of services intend to reopen in September. As a result, widespread closures could have a major impact on both employers and working parents.
For further information on this and guidance on all of your HR issues, call 01 886 0350.
Redundancies are a reality facing many businesses coming of out lockdown. In our recent blog, we’ve outlined how to handle the consultation process.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned that the full reopening of pubs on Monday, July 20th could be delayed. His comments come following reports of non-compliance with social distancing rules as people gathered outside pubs last weekend.
Handling annual leave entitlements post-pandemic could lead to its fair share of headaches, with unused leave having built up.
For advice on how to handle unused entitlements and requests, read our article.
The High Court has made a ruling that could have a huge impact on the construction sector. The Court has ruled that the law providing for sectoral employment orders is unconstitutional.
Read more about the ruling in our article.
Last Friday, the Irish Government announced further changes that will allow more businesses to reopen from Monday, June 29th. Read our blog to find out what restrictions are eased and how the announcement affects your business.
The COVID-19 lockdown has turned many Irish businesses into remote working operations. If that’s the case for your business, you need to ensure you’ve addressed the risks associated with employees working from home. To get started, read our homeworking risks blog.
COVID-19 has caused significant issues for businesses throughout the island of Ireland, leaving many feeling that reducing their headcount is the only way of securing their business’s future.
To discover options that could help you avoid having to make redundancies, read our alternatives blog.
The Government has announced several changes to the Roadmap that directly impact your reopening plans. Included is the surprise announcement that all retail outlets are allowed to reopen on Monday, June 8th. In summary, the Government has:
- Allowed all retail outlets to reopen on Monday, June 8th.
- Allowed shopping centres tore-open from June 15th provided only shops open and measures are taken to ensure people do not congregate at benches, fountains, or food courts.
- Extended the part payment of salaries under the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme until August 31st. A loophole that excluded employees on maternity or adoptive leave has also been closed.
- Moved Phase 5 of the Roadmap to Reopening forward. There will now be only 4 Phases with the final phase ending on August 10th.
- Extended the payment of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment until August 10th. From June 29th, part-time workers will receive a €203 Pandemic Unemployment Payment if their earnings were less than €200 per week prior to the lockdown measures being introduced. Where workers had earned €200 or more from their employer prior to the lockdown, the €350 payment will continue to apply.
- Eased travel restrictions allowing people to travel 20km or within their own county (whichever is greater) from June 8th.
To find out how these changes affect your business, call 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.
The Government’s recent Roadmap for Reopening sets out five phases and the key dates at which Irish businesses can reopen.
Whenever you reopen your business, you’ll need to put preventative measures in place, meaning Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may need to be used. That includes face masks, an option we’ve covered in our blog.
A recent survey has revealed some concerning issues regarding remote workers.
Among the many statistics highlighted, the survey revealed that employees are working as many as 38 extra hours per month during the lockdown.
To find out more about this and how you can help your remote workers with regards to health, read our blog.
Phase One of reopening Ireland’s society and economy begins on Monday, May 18th. However, contrary to initial plans, homeware stores will not be allowed to reopen.
This announcement has raised concerns among employers that their business might not be allowed to reopen once their allocated Phase begins. For further information and answers to all of our reopening queries, call 01 886 0350.
The Return to Work Safely Protocol outlines measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These are mandatory measures that apply to all businesses and must be adhered to.
To find out more about the Protocol and how it affects your business, call 01 886 0350.
The Government has published its Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. This roadmap outlines a five-phase strategy to ease COVID-19 restrictions and reopen Ireland’s economy and society.
To learn more, read our Roadmap blog.
Yesterday afternoon, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced amendments to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
The State will now subsidise 85% of the wages of lower-income workers who earn less than €24,400 per year. Employees with previous average net pay of between €412 and €500 per week (equivalent to €24,400-€31,000) will also now be entitled to a maximum subsidy of €350 per week. This increases the subsidy for employees at the lower end of this band.
The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) is a financial support provided by the government to help businesses and employees through the COVID-19 crisis.
If your business has seen a decline in turnover because of COVID-19, you may qualify for the TWSS. Learn more about the scheme in our TWSS FAQ blog.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) has introduced the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Childcare Scheme (WSCS). The aim of the scheme is to provide additional financial supports to employers and employees working in the Care and School Age Childcare and Early Learning sectors.
For more information, click here.
The Irish government recently announced the introduction of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, a new support for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
For employers who qualify, the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme will aim to lessen the financial burden they’ve experienced as a result of COVID-19. The government subsidy is 70% of an employee’s weekly wage.
Our Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme blog explains the support in greater detail.
On Friday, March 27th, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the latest government restriction in the fight against coronavirus, advising that everyone should stay at home until April 12th, 2020.
That is unless your business provides an essential service. If so, your employees are still permitted to travel to and from work. To find out more, read our blog.
The Irish government has made the move to support businesses and employers by introducing a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme aims to keep as many workers as possible in employment until the COVID-19 crisis is over.
The scheme also replaces the COVID-19 Pandemic Refund Scheme. If your business has already used this refund scheme, you’ll automatically be registered for the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
You can read more about the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme here.
You may be thinking of allowing employees to work remotely. If so, it’s not just work processes that you need to ensure work effectively. You also need to ensure your employees will be happy and healthy while working from home.
For more information, read our remote working health & happiness blog.
The Irish government has announced new measures to combat the COVID-19 virus. These new measures will provide much-needed support to businesses and workers affected by the crisis.
The government announced significant new restrictions that will further reduce employment. It was also confirmed that the initial review date of 29th March has now been extended until April 19th.
From midnight, March 24th, the government specifically requires all theatres, clubs, gyms/leisure centres, markets, betting shops, marts, casinos, hairdressers, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets to shut.
All hotels must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons, while all non-essential retail outlets must also close. All other retail outlets must implement distancing measures.
These restrictions will likely lead to further job losses. Only employees who can work from home and essential frontline staff in the retail and healthcare sectors remain assured of continued employment.
Financial supports for workers and wage subsidies
Noting the need to support workers during the crisis, the government announced substantial increases in social welfare benefits, including:
- The COVID Unemployment Payment rising to €350 a week.
- The COVID Illness Benefit for self-isolating employees increasing to €350 per week. This can be topped up by employers.
The government has also encouraged employers to keep staff on their payrolls to avoid mass redundancies.
Wage Subsidy Scheme
Under the wage subsidy scheme, the government will co-fund 70% of the cost of salaries up to a maximum of €38,000 a year.
Employers will only be eligible if they’ve suffered a 25% decline in turnover and are unable to cover their outgoings.
Despite this state intervention, it remains to seen whether the new measures will be enough to prevent widespread job losses.
School closure update
Minister for Education Joe McHugh confirmed that schools will remain closed after March 29th. He added that a further announcement would be made soon regarding the extension.
The Irish government is expected to announce a multi-billion euro income plan to support employees who have been laid-off as a result of the coronavirus crisis. This announcement should be made later in the week.
The Dáil has just passed emergency legislation to combat the COVID-19 crisis.
The Health Preservation and other Emergency Measures Bill contains two major changes.
The first confirms the income protection measures available to employees infected by COVID-19.
The financial measures include:
- An enhanced illness benefit of €305 per week for employees who require medical treatment.
- A fast access COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment designed to get thousands of unemployed people into payment as quickly as possible.
- A refund scheme under which employers can continue to pay workers at the jobseeker’s rate of €203 per week. These payments ill be fully refunded to employers through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said that he expects no “dramatic measures” be announced anytime soon in the fight against COVID-19. He added that coronavirus updates and advice should only be sought from government and HSE websites.
The Irish government has advised that all pubs close until March 29th. Businesses such as restaurants and cinemas can remain open but have been advised to put social distancing measures in place.
There is now also a temporary refund scheme for businesses who are forced to cease trading because of the coronavirus. This is available to employers and the self-employed, with employers being asked to pay €203 a week for a six week period.
Ireland’s Minister for Health Simon Harris has said more advice is being given to people returning from areas that have seen significant coronavirus outbreaks.
People returning from Spain and Italy are being asked to restrict their movements for the next two weeks. This includes not going to work, and to lessen their social interactions.
The Irish government has announced that schools, including all third-level institutions, are to close from 6pm on March 12th until March 29th.
Several other public places have also been ordered to close, including:
- Tourism site
Furthermore, gatherings of over 500 (outdoor) and 100 (indoor) have been cancelled.
There are steps you can take to ensure the health and safety of your employees, including:
People are understandably worried about the coronavirus. In addition to having a duty of care to protect your employees’ health & safety, you also need to consider their wellbeing. Remind employees of any wellbeing initiatives you have in place, for example, an Employee Assistance Programme.
In Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs is regularly updating its travel advice for all affected areas. They advise ‘to avoid all non-essential travel to and within China.’ If you have planned a business trip to China, consider alternatives e.g. postponement or meetings via Skype. If travel is a must, then you should effectively, but proportionately, manage the risk.
Remain vigilant to where your employees are and where they’re going. Give them clear instructions on hygiene. If an employee reports symptoms of the virus while they’re travelling, you will have to support them.
It’s also important to put plans in place for any China-based employees or those returning to Ireland.
Employees returning from affected areas
Employees returning from China should contact their local Department of Public Health for advice on measures that may need to be taken for 14 days following their return to Ireland. An employee may show symptoms of novel coronavirus, including cough, fever, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing on arrival or at any time in the 14 days following their return. If this is the case, they should self-isolate immediately and phone their GP or emergency department rather than turning up in person.
Employees who have recently returned from China can expect to be prioritised by their local Department of Public Health. Non-symptomatic employees returning from places outside of the Hubei province can still attend work.
Still, if you have concerns (particularly if it’s known or suspected that the employee has had contact with someone known to have the virus), it might be wise to play it safe with a brief period of suspension on full pay on precautionary grounds.
Existing health conditions
Certain employees may be vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions. Included are those with existing respiratory conditions such as chronic lung disease, diabetes and cancer.
Pregnant or older employees may also be at greater risk.
Employees who have been advised to self-isolate
If an employee is instructed to stay away from work for 14 days, there’s no legal requirement to pay them. That is unless they report to you as sick during that time in which case normal sickness absence and pay procedures apply. However, you may choose to continue to pay employees, particularly if they were in an affected area on business.
If employees who fall into this category attempt to come to work, remind them of the medical instructions and tell them to go home for the stated period. Again, there would be no legal requirement to pay the employee because it’s not the employer advising the employee to stay off work, it’s necessary under official government advice.
Another option is to offer the employee the option of taking paid annual leave. This helps reduce the risk that the employee feels compelled to attend work which would put other employees at risk of catching the virus.
If organisations choose not to pay employees who have been advised to self-isolate, they must ensure that the approach is consistent and adheres to custom and practice. An inconsistent approach may lead to claims if one employee receives less favourable treatment than another.
Refusal to come into work due to concerns
If an employee has returned from an affected area or is worried about catching the virus and refuses to attend work, organisations should listen to their concerns and offer reassurance. An employer’s response to this will depend on the actual risk of catching the virus. It will also depend on the specific circumstances, including whether anyone in the workforce has already been diagnosed or another risk of exposure exists. Employers may decide to offer a period of paid annual leave or unpaid leave, or allow the employee to work from home where this is feasible. Responses should be proportionate to the specific situation.
Discrimination, bullying and harassment
Coronavirus is not a reason to treat employees differently because of their nationality. Still, instances of ‘banter’ and other types of harassment between employees might become more obvious.
Throughout it all, ensure your zero-tolerance stance to harassment is maintained.
The World Health Organisation’s standard infection control measures are:
- Frequently cleaning hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue – throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, phone your GP (do not visit the GP surgery) and tell your GP if you have been in China in the last 14 days.
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