Covid-19 questions answered by legal expert - Stephen Keogh, Managing Partner, Sellors Solicitors

Covid-19 questions answered by legal expert - Stephen Keogh, Managing Partner, Sellors Solicitors

These are exceptional times that we live in. With the escalating and ever-changing threat the Covid 19 Pandemic poses to our social and economic structure, we as a society are facing unprecedented challenges and decisions. Below are examples of Questions that have been put to Sellors Solicitors.

If I am laid off temporarily will I get paid?

Advice: Workers who are laid off temporarily, without pay from their employer, due to a reduction in business activity, they can apply for a Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Further information is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/be74d3-covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment/

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is paid at a flat rate of €350 per week for the duration of the pandemic emergency.

As a self-employed person, what benefits am I entitled to during the Covid 19 crisis and how do I apply for them?

Advice: If you are self-employed but no longer earning as a result of the crisis you may also access the emergency COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. You may, if your trading income has collapsed to the extent that you are available to take up other full-time employment if it was offered to you, receive a payment of €350 per week for so long as you are available to take up other work. Further information is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/68c144-what-to-do-if-you-are-self-employed-covid-19/

Can I refuse to work during the Pandemic?

Advice: There are certain circumstances where this is a definite yes. For example if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are medically certified to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19. There may be risk factors which justify an employee's decision to self-isolate. In these circumstances you can apply for ‘Illness benefit for Covid 19’, details of which are here: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/df55ae-how-to-apply-for-illness-benefit-for-covid-19-absences/

Otherwise, if an employee is reluctant to attend work, to use public transport, to work with colleagues and so on, options such as working from home or availing of some type of leave (e.g. annual leave, paternity leave, unpaid leave) may be agreed with the employer.

If this is not possible and an employee is expected to be at work, and they refuse to attend, they may be considered to be on unauthorised and unpaid absence. It can also be a disciplinary matter. This is particularly relevant where employees are needed in their workplaces to keep key services and functions operating in transport, retail, medical and other frontline sectors.

I cannot pay my employees their full wages during this temporary lay off period but will try to pay something to everyone. How and what support is available to me as an employer in this situation?

The Government has established a temporary refund scheme for employers forced to cease or reduce trading as a result of social distancing measures to help delay the spread of COVID-19. Employers will be refunded up to 70 percent of an employee's wages - up to a level of €410.

Revenue will contact employers directly to confirm that they meet the conditions for this new scheme.

I run an essential business and my employees need time off work because of lack of childcare

Advice: This is a common challenge facing employers. Where employees can carry out some (or perhaps all) of their duties from home, they should be paid accordingly. Employers should consider reducing working hours and changing working times to assist employees in managing work and increased childcare responsibilities. Family leave options (paternity leave, parental leave, parents leave or perhaps force majeure leave) as well as annual leave may be solutions, at least in the short term. Employers are being urged by the government to continue paying employees where possible, with the benefit of the state support. Consistency is key to avoid setting unmanageable precedents and as the situation is so uncertain, employees should be informed that all measures are temporary and cannot be maintained indefinitely.

For more information contact one of our professional team at: Sellors Solicitors email: info@sellors.ie or phone 061 414355.

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