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Latest HR & Employment Law News

Latest update on Coronavirus COVID-19 - Adare Human Resource Management

25 March 2020

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, announced yesterday evening the next steps that the Government will take to respond to the Coronavirus Emergency stating that these ‘are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency’.


Employment Update

Three Areas of Agreed Actions were detailed in yesterday evenings announcement.

  1. New measures to slow the spread of the virus as recommended by the CMO and the NPHET - an expert team of public health doctors, virologists and scientists.
  2. New measures to assist those who have lost or will lose their jobs as a consequence of the Emergency and a scheme to ensure that many others do not and remain on the payroll rather than being laid off.
  3. The introduction of new emergency legislation that is expected to be enacted before the end of the week.


Restrictions

Current restrictions announced by the Government will remain in place until Sunday April 19, 2020. This means all creches, schools and Colleges will remain closed until that date.


New Restrictions

  • All theatres, clubs, gyms/leisure centres, hairdressers, betting shops, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to shut;
  • All hotels to limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons;
  • All non-essential retail outlets are to close to members of the public and all other retail outlets are to implement physical distancing; [a list of essential stores is provided]
  • All cafes and restaurants are to limit supply to take away food or delivery;
  • All sporting events are cancelled, including those behind closed doors;
  • All playgrounds and holiday/caravan parks will close;
  • All places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time to ensure adequate physical distancing;
  • All organised social indoor and outdoor events of any size are not to take place.

The new restrictions will place a significant impact on Employers and Employees alike leading to increased requirement of flexibility in all employment relationships with a mandate that all individuals should work from home unless attendance at workplace is absolutely essential. The requirement that Employees work from home, unless attendance is absolutely essential, does not include factories or construction sites but HSE guidelines should be followed when maintaining operations.


Enhanced COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

The Government have made available an increase to the unemployment payment to €350 per week, with the first payments to be made on Friday March 27, 2020. An online application system for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available to all Employees through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection at https://services.mywelfare.ie/


Definition of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Where an Employer temporarily lays off an Employee which in effect removes all work from an Employee for a period of time and the Employee is not paid during this time as they are not required to attend for work, an Employee can apply for a special COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This emergency payment has been introduced for anyone whose Employer is unable to continue to pay them and is available to all Employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to the pandemic.

It is recommended that Employers continue to issue notice in writing in advance to any Employee in relation to a period of temporary layoff. It is also recommended that the Employer provides a copy of the RP9 form to the Employee with the letter of notice as Employees will be expected to apply for jobseekers benefit while in receipt of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.


Enhanced COVID-19 Illness Benefit

The COVID Illness Benefit will also increase to €350 per week and can be topped up by Employers. In order to receive the enhanced COVID-19 Illness Benefit payment, an Employee must be:

  • self-isolating on the instruction of a doctor or diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
  • be absent from work and confined to your home or a medical facility

To be eligible for this payment a person must be confined to their home or a medical facility. It will be paid for a maximum of 12 weeks where a person is self-isolating but will be paid for the duration of a person's absence from work if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

For those Employers who do not have a paid sick leave policy in place and cannot  top up the enhanced COVID-19 Illness Benefit Employees should be advised to apply for additional emergency income support, in the form of Supplementary Welfare Allowance which is based on a means test.


COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme - Income Support

From March 26, 2020 an eligible Employer will be supported through the subsidy scheme and will refund Employers up to a maximum weekly of €410 for each qualifying Employee.  The scheme will apply to Employers who top up Employees’ wages and those that aren’t in a position to do so. However, where a top up applies Employers should pay no more than the normal take home pay of the Employee. The payment should be processed through the Employees normal payroll process and Employers will thereafter be reimbursed for amounts paid to Employees and notified to Revenue via the payroll process. The reimbursement will, in general, be made within two working days after receipt of the payroll submission. Income tax and USC will not be applied to the subsidy payment through the payroll.

The Employer is expected to make best efforts to maintain as close to 100% of normal income as possible for the subsidised period. Revenue are providing further guidance on the operation of the scheme. There will be severe penalties for any abuse of the scheme. Further details and all enquiries should be made directly to Revenue.


Employer Eligibility of Income Support under the Scheme

The Scheme is available to Employers from all sectors (excluding the public service and non-commercial semi-state sector) whose business activities are being adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Scheme is available for Employers who retain staff on payroll; some of the staff may be temporarily not working or some may be on reduced hours and/or reduced pay. Provided the Employer meets the conditions set out below and subject to the levels of pay to the Employees the Employer may be eligible for the scheme for some or all of the Employees.

To qualify for the scheme, Employers must:

  • be experiencing significant negative economic disruption due to Covid-19
  • be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Revenue, a minimum of a 25% decline in turnover
  • be unable to pay normal wages and normal outgoings fully
  • retain their Employees on the payroll.

The Scheme is confined to Employees who were on the Employer’s payroll as at 29 February 2020, and for whom a payroll submission has already been made to Revenue in the period from 1 February 2020 to 15 March 2020.

The names of all Employers operating this scheme will be published on Revenue’s website in due course, after the scheme has expired.

Please Note:

This payment replaces the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection COVID-19 Employer Refund Scheme announced by the Government on March 15, 2020, any business that received refunds under the current scheme do not need to reapply. The Employer may make payroll submissions from 26 March 2020 under the subsidy scheme arrangements on the same basis as they were doing for the Employer Refund Scheme, and €410 will be refunded in respect of each eligible employee per week.

Operational Processes

Employers should refer to the Revenue website for details of operating procedures from a payroll perspective which include the Employer running the payroll as normal and entering specific details as directed by Revenue.

 

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Questions & Answers on Latest COVID-19

Government Announcement


The Government announced that all non-essential services are to be closed how do I know if my business should close, what are the exceptions to this?

Yes, some exceptions exist and some businesses/ operations can remain open these include; factories, construction sites, hotels (where occupancy is limited to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons), retail and wholesale sale of food, beverages and newspapers in non-specialised and specialised stores, retail sale of household consumer products necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences and businesses, pharmacies/chemists and retailers providing pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical or dispensing services, opticians/optometrists, retail sale of medical and orthopaedic goods in specialised stores, fuel stations and heating fuel providers, retailers involved in the repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycle repair and related facilities (for example, tyre sales and repairs), retail sale of essential items for the health and welfare of animals, including animal feed and medicines, animal food, pet food and animal supplies including bedding, laundries and drycleaners, banks, post offices and credit unions, retail sale of safety supply stores (for example, work clothes, Personal Protective Equipment), hardware stores, builders’ merchants and stores that provide hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment, supplies and tools essential for gardening/farming/agriculture, retail sale of office products and services for individuals working from home and for businesses, retailers providing electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home. Even where your place of employment is permitted to remain open HSE guidelines should be followed when maintaining operations.


I have no work for my Employees and will have to consider lay off. What state benefit will be available to them?

Where an Employer temporarily lays off an Employee which in effect removes all work from an Employee for a period of time and the Employee is not paid during this time as they are not required to attend for work, an Employee can apply for a special COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The Government have made available since yesterday an increase to this payment in the amount of €350 per week. It is recommended that advance notice is given in writing as well as providing all Employees with the RP9 form.

 

I am laying off my staff do I have to give them notice?

The legislation states that advance notice must be given in any lay off or short time situation. While the notice period is not stipulated as much notice as is reasonably practicable should be given even where the Employee can apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Payment.

 

How can my Employees apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment?

An online application system for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available to all Employees through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection at https://services.mywelfare.ie/.  They will need to provide personal information such as bank details to avail of this payment.


Some of my Employees are following the HSE guidance to self-isolate, is there any state payment available to them?

The COVID Illness Benefit is available to Employees who are on medically certified self-isolation on the instruction of a doctor or where an Employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19. In order to avail of the benefit, the Employee must be absent from work and confined to their home or a medical facility. This payment is in the amount of €350 per week and can be topped up by Employers.


My Company does not offer paid sick leave to Employees, is there anything apart from the COVID-19 Illness Payment available to them?

For those Employers who do not have a paid sick leave policy in place and cannot  top up the enhanced COVID-19 Illness Benefit Employees should be advised to apply for additional emergency income support, in the form of Supplementary Welfare Allowance which is based on a means test.


What is the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme?

The Wage Subsidy Scheme is a form of income support. From March 26, 2020 an eligible Employer will be supported through the subsidy scheme and will refund Employers up to a maximum weekly of €410 for each qualifying Employee.  The scheme will apply to Employers who top up Employees’ wages and those that aren’t in a position to do so, however, where a top up applies Employers should pay no more than the normal take home pay of the Employee. Please refer to Revenue for further details on the parameter of the scheme.

 

Does the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme apply to all Employers?

The Scheme is available to Employers from all sectors (excluding the public service and non-commercial semi-state sector) and who can demonstrate that their business activities are being adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through the eligibility criteria set out.

 

How do I know if I will be considered eligible for income support under the Wage Subsidy Scheme?

Employers must self-declare to Revenue that they have experienced significant negative economic disruption due to Covid-19, with a minimum of 25% decline in turnover, retain Employees on payroll and have an inability to pay normal wages and other outgoings. All eligibility enquiries should be made to Revenue directly.

 

Can I seek income support for all Employees under the Wage Subsidy Scheme?

The scheme is available for Employers who retain staff on payroll; some of the staff may be temporarily not working or some may be on reduced hours and/or reduced pay. Provided the Employer meets the conditions set out by Revenue and subject to the levels of pay to the Employees, the Employer may be eligible for the scheme for some or all of the Employees. The Scheme is confined to Employees who were on the Employer’s payroll as at 29 February 2020, and for whom a payroll submission has already been made to Revenue in the period from 1 February 2020 to 15 March 2020. Employers are encouraged to facilitate Employees by operating the scheme, by retaining Employees on their books and by making best efforts to maintain a significant, or 100% income, for the period of the scheme. The subsidy scheme applies to Employers who top up Employees’ wages and those that aren’t in a position to do so. The names of all Employers operating this scheme will be published on Revenue’s website in due course, after the scheme has expires.


How long will support be provided under the Wage Subsidy Scheme?

The scheme will run for 12 weeks from 26 March 2020. Draft legislation governing the scheme will be published shortly.

 

How does the scheme operate from a payroll perspective?

Employers make this special support payment to their Employees through their normal payroll process. Employers will then be reimbursed for amounts paid to Employees and notified to Revenue via the payroll process. The reimbursement will, in general, be made within two working days after receipt of the payroll submission. Please consult the Revenue website for exact details on payment and reimbursement procedures.

 

What happens where an Employer seeks income support for an Employee who was not on payroll from February 29, 2020?

If an Employee, identified with their PPSN, was not included in a payroll submission reported to Revenue between 1 Feb 2020 and 15 March 2020 with a pay date from Feb 29, 2020, then the Employee is not eligible and Employer will not be refunded for this Employee.

 

Can an Employer apply for income support under the scheme for an individual who has been offered a job with the Company but whose start date has been deferred?

In order to avail of the income support the Employer must satisfy all eligibility criteria in the first instance and the Employee eligibility criteria is satisfied in the second place, meaning that the Employee must be on payroll; may be temporarily not working or may be on reduced hours and/or reduced pay. The scheme is confined to Employees who were on the payroll since February 29, 2020 in the payroll that was reported to Revenue between 1 Feb 2020 and 15 March 2020 so where a start date has been deferred the Employee would not satisfy these conditions.

 

Can an Employer apply for income support under the scheme for an Employee who has resigned and given their notice to leave?

In order to avail of the income support the Employer must satisfy all eligibility criteria in the first instance and the Employee eligibility criteria is satisfied in the second place, meaning that the Employee who has resigned and is working their notice must be on the payroll, or is temporarily not working, or on reduced hours and/ or reduced pay and finally that the Employee was on the payroll since February 29, 2020 which was reported to Revenue between 1 Feb 2020 and 15 March 2020. If the Employee who has tendered their resignation meets those criteria that may be eligible under the scheme for the period of time up to the conclusion of their notice.

 

I previously applied for a refund for payments I made to Employees last week through the Employer Refund Scheme do I have to reapply to the Wage Subsidy Scheme?

Any Employer, already registered with Revenue for the purposes of the Employer COVID-19 Refund Scheme, is not required to take any further action. The Employer may make payroll submissions from 26 March 2020 under the subsidy scheme arrangements on the same basis as they were doing for the Employer Refund Scheme, and €410 will be refunded in respect of each eligible Employee per week.

 

Disclaimer - The information in this section is provided to assist Employers on the implementation of the Government Schemes and must be read in the context of the scheme details from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Revenue and www.gov.ie website and should not be interpreted as a legal definition of any of the information provided. The information is changing constantly and any information provided is correct of March 25, 2020 and is per information on the Revenue website as of that date.


For further information or advice, please contact your designated experienced HR Client Manager in Adare Human Resource Management or info@adarehrm.ie .