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Employment Rights During Covid-19: We Answer Your Frequently Asked Questions

Employment Rights During Covid-19: We Answer Your Frequently Asked Questions

Employment Rights During Covid 19

Many people around the country are concerned about the significant impact COVID-19 will have on their way of life – especially their jobs. Many have already been laid off, some have received less hours or have been placed on part-time work, and a number have had their salaries reduced.

Over the last number of weeks and months, our team of employment law solicitors in Dublin have been busy answering some of your employment-related questions during this global pandemic. Here’s our answers* to a few frequently asked questions:

Q1. I’ve been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19. Is this allowed and am I entitled to a redundancy payment?

‘Yes’ to the first part of the question and ‘no’ to the second. An employer is entitled to temporarily lay-off employees if they are not in a position to provide their employee(s) with work and they reasonably believe that this lack of work is temporary.

While employees may be entitled to a redundancy payment after a period of time (after 4 weeks or more, or 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks), emergency legislation recently enacted to help tackle the impact of COVID-19 has temporarily removed this right for the duration of the ‘emergency period’. The ‘emergency period’ was defined as being from 13 March 2020 to 31 May 2020 but has since been extended to 10 August 2020. Please note that those who have been temporarily laid off may be entitled to social welfare support.

While the emergency legislation removes the right of redundancy for temporary lay-offs, it does not remove the right of redundancy for dismissed on a permanent basis. Therefore, if an employer considers that the lack of work will be permanent and dismisses an employee on that basis, normal redundancy rules will apply.

Q2. I’ve been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19. Am I entitled to my job back once this health crisis is over?

Under normal circumstances, yes. If an employee has been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19, it is a sign that their employer is of the view that the lack of work will be temporary. Therefore, once the ‘emergency period’ is over and an employer is in a position to provide the employee with work, they will be entitled to return to work on that basis and their contracts of employment will remain in force. The ‘emergency period’ was defined as being from 13 March 2020 to 31 May 2020 but has since been extended to 10 August 2020.

However, if an employee is, after the ‘emergency period’, permanently dismissed, temporarily laid off, or has had their hours reduced, they may be entitled to a redundancy payment, in which case normal redundancy rules will apply.

Q3. My employer has reduced my working hours due to COVID-19. What are my rights?

Employers are fully entitled to reduce the working hours of employees for a short period of time if they reasonably believe that such reduction in hours will be temporary.

While employees may be entitled to a redundancy payment after a period of time (after 4 weeks or more, or 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks), emergency legislation recently enacted to help tackle the impact of COVID-19 has temporarily removed this right for the duration of the ‘emergency period’. The ‘emergency period’ was defined as being from 13 March 2020 to 31 May 2020 but has since been extended to 10 August 2020. Please note that those who have been temporarily laid off may be entitled to social welfare support.

Therefore, employees who have been placed on short time work (and receive reduced remuneration) are not entitled to any redundancy payment during this ‘emergency period’. However, if this continues after the ‘emergency period’ had ended, normal redundancy rules will apply. Please note that those who have been placed on short term work may be entitled to social welfare support.

Q4. My employer has reduced my salary due to COVID-19. Is this allowed?

No. Since changing an employee’s remuneration is considered a material change to the terms and conditions of an employment contract, it cannot be changed without the employee’s consent or without a specific provision within the contract which provides for such change. While most contracts of employment will include emergency provisions that allow for such a change, it is best practice for an agreement to be reached between employers and employees in this respect.

Q5. I’ve been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19. Do I still accrue annual leave during this period?

No. Annual leave is calculated based on the time an employee works. Therefore, if an employee has been temporarily laid off and is not working, they cannot accrue annual leave.

However, employees are entitled (under the Organisation of Working Time Act) to benefit from any public holidays that occur during the first 13 weeks of being temporarily laid off. An employer can give the employee:
a) a paid day off on that day;
b) a paid day off within a month of that day;
c) an additional day of annual leave; or
d) an additional day’s pay.

* Please note that the answers to these questions may differ depending on the contract of employment in place and the individual circumstances that arise therefrom. These answers are not intended to form the basis of legal advice and should not be construed as such. Should you wish to receive legal advice based on your individual circumstances, please contact our Dublin 7 solicitors at O’Brien Murphy by phone on 01 8746959 or by email at info@obm.ie.