15 Mar 2020

Your employment rights during COVID-19 restrictions

Introduction

Ireland entered the ‘delay phase’ in its response to COVID -19 (coronavirus) on 13 March 2020. This means that:

  • All schools, childcare and educational facilities have closed
  • Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people or outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people have been cancelled
  • All State-run cultural institutions have closed

These measures will remain in place until 29 March 2020.

The Government has encouraged employers to allow employees to work from home where possible, and be as flexible as possible in their response to the restrictions that are now in place.

This document outlines the options available to employees in a number of different scenarios, and directs you to where you can get more information and financial assistance if needed.

If you are sick or have been asked to self-isolate

If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, you should not go to work. You should contact your GP for advice. Coronavirus symptoms are explained on the HSE website.

While you are sick with coronavirus, you may be entitled to sick pay from your employer. This depends on your contract of employment. Your employer does not have to pay you when you cannot come to work because you are sick with coronavirus, unless it is part of your contract of employment.

If your employer does not pay you, you should apply for enhanced Illness Benefit (More information here) from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. You do not need to satisfy the usual PRSI conditions for Illness Benefit if you are off sick from work with COVID-19. This means that you will be eligible for the payment even if you have only recently started working.

Your GP may advise you to self-isolate before you have been diagnosed with COVID-19. This means that you have been asked to stay indoors and completely avoid contact with other people. You are entitled to Illness Benefit if you have been medically advised to self-isolate.

Enhanced Illness Benefit will be paid at a higher rate than Illness Benefit and is only available where you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been told to self-isolate by a medical professional because of COVID-19.

You can read more about claiming Illness Benefit.

If you have to care for someone who is sick with COVID-19 or has been told to self-isolate

If you are not sick, but you cannot go to work because you have to care for a sick child or other relative, you can ask for paid leave. If your employer cannot give you paid leave, you can ask for statutory leave. Statutory means that the leave is set out in law, for example, your right to parental leave.

Paid compassionate leave

Employers have been asked to be as flexible as possible in assisting employees with care arrangements. This could include:

  • Offering paid compassionate leave
  • Allowing you to work from home
  • Altering your shifts, so that you can coordinate caring between you and your partner, or another person.
  • Allowing you to rearrange holidays
  • Allowing you to take paid time off that you can work back at a later time

Statutory leave

If none of the options above is available to you, and you cannot arrange for paid leave from your employer, you can apply for one of the statutory schemes below.

You are allowed to take 3 days force majeure leave in a 12-month period, or 5 days in a 36 month period. You can ask your employer to allow you to take the full 5 days paid force majeure leave together.

You normally give your employer 6 weeks’ notice if you want to take parental or parent’s leave, but you can ask your employer to wave this notice period.

Your employer does not have to pay you when you are on parental or parent’s leave. If you are on parent’s leave you can apply for Parent’s Benefit. If you are on parental leave, you can apply for means-tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

If you can’t go to work because you have no childcare

Your place of work may still be open over the coming weeks, and your employer may be expecting you to go to work as usual. If you cannot do this because you have to look after children and they are not sick with the virus, you can ask your employer for paid leave.

The Government has asked employers to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off to look after their children or other members of their families. This could include:

  • Offering paid compassionate leave
  • Allowing you to work from home
  • Altering your shifts, so that you can coordinate caring between you and your partner, or another person.
  • Allowing you to rearrange holidays
  • Allowing you to take paid time off that you can work back at a later time

Statutory leave

If none of the above is available to you, and you cannot arrange for paid leave from your employer, you can apply for one of the statutory schemes below. Statutory means that they are set out in law.

  • Parental leave if you are looking after a child up to the age of 12 (or 16 if the child has a disability)
  • Parent’s leave if you are caring for a child up to age 1 who was born after 1 November 2019

You normally give your employer 6 weeks’ notice if you want to take parental or parent’s leave, but you can ask your employer to wave this notice period.

Your employer does not have to pay you when you are on parental or parent’s leave. If you are on parent’s leave you can apply for Parent’s Benefit. If you are on parental leave, you can apply for means-tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

If your employer has no work for you, or less work than usual

Your employer may decide to close their business for this period and send you home. This is called a temporary lay-off. If your employer cannot pay for this period, you can apply for Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

If your employer reduces your hours to 3 days or less per week from your normal full-time hours, you can apply for a payment called Short Time Work Support which is a form of Jobseeker’s Benefit.

Your employer can also put you on short-time working which is a more formal procedure and applies in the following situation:

  • Due to a reduction in the amount of work to be done, your weekly pay is less than half your normal weekly pay or
  • Your hours worked are reduced to less than half your normal weekly working hours

Find out more about lay-off and short-time working.

COVID-19: Get all of the latest updates for Employees and Employers here.

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