Employee rights during COVID-19 coronavirus
If you have COVID-19 or you were asked to self-isolate
Those infected may be entitled to their wages during period of sickness if same is provided in their contract of employment. Some employment contracts provide for a certain number of weeks during calendar year wages during period of sickness (in full amount or as a part payment/ top up to Social Welfare payments). In general however there is no legal obligation to be paid during period of sickness or self-isolation when work is not performed.
Those affected or subject to self-isolation (quarantine) may apply for enhanced illness benefit which has just been introduced by Irish government. The following is the outline of most important info:
- it applies to person diagnosed or directed to quarantine by their GP and as a result absent from their employment and not entitled to wages
- it is paid in a higher weekly rate of €305 (standard illness benefit is currently €205)
- it is paid for period of 14 days or during the period of sickness from those positively diagnosed
- the current 6-day waiting period for Illness Benefit will not apply to anyone who has COVID-19 (Coronavirus) or is in medically-required self-isolation
IF you are a parent and you are unable to perform work due to the need to look after your child, Irish government asked employers to assist in such situations and to be as flexible as possible
An employee is entitled to paid leave, known as ‘force majeure leave’ to provide urgent care for an immediate family relative such as a child. Force majeure is limited to a total of three days in a 12 month period or five days in a 36 month period. In the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19 it is expected that employers will, if at all possible, facilitate people by allowing them to take the full 5 days entitlement in one block, as required.
You may also apply for parental leave. Employers were asked to be flexible and to waive the obligation to apply for same 6 weeks in advance. Parents are entitled to take up to 22 weeks unpaid parental leave to care for each child up to 12 years of age (16 years of age in the case of a child with a disability).
Parental leave is not a paid leave so you may try to make an application for supplementary welfare allowance.
If the employer does not have work or have less working hours.
Employer may decider to send employees to a forced leave known as lay-off. Irish law allows employer to do so when there is no work available which the employee may perform and there is no need to obtain employee consent. Lay-off is unfortunately unpaid leave in most cases unless payment is provided in your contract of employment. If you are sent on lay-off you should apply to Social Welfare for job-seeker’s benefit or job seeker’s allowance.
Employer may also cut a part of your weekly hours. We are of the view that cutting hours by less then half (ie. form 39 hours a week to 30 or 25 hours) requires employee consent (unlike in situation of short-time described below). We recommend in those uncertain times to put a written objection to your employer if your hours are cut in such amount and apply to Social Welfare for Short Time Work Support (you must fulfill criteria for job-seeker’s benefit and your working time shall be limited to minimum 3 days from the full time).
Employer may also put employee on sort-time which means that the working time is cut by at least half. Similarly to the lay-off it is allowed by legislation and no consent form employee is needed. You shall apply for Short Time Work Support if you are put on short-time.
If lay-off or short-time occurs, employer shall notify you of same using Form RP9. That form has information explaining your rights. In general, after expiry of 4 weeks of lay-off or short-time (or mixture of both) you may notify your employer in writing, that unless offer of full time work is made withing 7 days of receipt of your notification (and the work in fact is provided withing 4 weeks) you will be entitled to terminate your employment and be entitled to redundancy payment.