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On Employment Law Matters
We would not normally encourage this, having reviewed the Workplace Commission Website employees can take annual leave during this time and may prefer to do so. Realistically if it means they will earn more money by taking holidays instead of lay-off they will probably prefer it too.
Where do can I get the most accurate and up to date advice?
As this illness and advice is constantly changing and updating please follow the latest up to date advice from the correct sources. Health Service Executive (HSE)
What do you do if your staff are being bullied, harassed and discriminated against because of their nationality?
Coronavirus is not a reason to treat employees differently because of their nationality. You should be alert to “banter,” and other instances of harassment, between employees about the virus which relates to someone’s nationality or ethnicity and ensure that your zero-tolerance stance to harassment is maintained.
Your company emergency policies should be clearly spelled out in your Employee Handbook. This can help ensure that employees at all levels understand what steps you believe will keep your workplace safe for everyone. While your HR policies should ideally always be up to date, this is a great time to review all the HR Documents your company uses. Ensuring that employees practice regular hand washing and that your facilities are properly cleaned and may also help curb potential spreading of the coronavirus. In order to help your team, feel safe, keep hand sanitizer and disinfectant on hand and ensure that your restrooms are stocked with the appropriate soap, towels and toiletries.
Medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness and after that, employers can request what evidence they require. Even if it your normal procedure to require a fit note from the employee’s GP, this is unlikely to be realistic in these circumstance: firstly, the employees may not be ill in any case, and secondly, because patients are advised to stay away from GP practices if there is any risk they may have the coronavirus.
An employee who claimed to have been required to self-isolate but was found not to be telling the truth would be subject to your disciplinary process.
If any of your staff have feelings of being overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like they might want to harm themselves. Employees with pre-existing mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Additional Information can be found on the website.
Tell your employees to take care of themselves and their family to help you cope with the stress. Talk to your employees about taking care of their body, take deep breaths, stretch or mediate. Try to eat healthy, well balance meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Make time to unwind and should you wish to connect with others talk with people about your concerns. ESA provide an Employee Assistance Program. EAP. How to cope with stress during an infectious Disease outbreak.
You should inform employees that for immediate payment the employees need to complete COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Application Form. On this form it states that the employee must complete and submit a UP1 form. The employer will also have to complete a UP14 form because this gives revenue or Mywelfare information about the employees’ normal working hours.
Temporary lay off and short time the employer is still required to complete an RP9 form this allows the employee to look for redundancy.
Forms are on the departments website or ESA can supply.
Self-employed people, who must self-isolate, or whose work stops, have limited protection as they are not eligible for sick pay. The precise legal rights of self-employed workers will depend upon the terms of the agreement and how the arrangement operates in practice. Some workers deemed to be self-employed may in fact be protected by employees. Some companies who value the self-employed people working for them and can afford it, may decide to offer full or partial goodwill payments. This would help and support the self-employed persons and to ensure goodwill in the future.
There is an obligation under the Health and Safety Work Act 2005 to ensure there is a safe work environment. Employers must show they have exercised due diligence in ensuring the safety of its employees from hazards at work. And possible exposure to coronavirus can be considered a hazard.
Certainly, if an employee has been exposed to someone with coronavirus, an Employer may want to have them self-quarantine. Certainly, if they have been exposed to someone with the Coronavirus, an employer should require them to self-identify and self-quarantine. This is a practical step to ensure others in the workplace. You need to confirm that the information is correct. It is all about diligence and asking the right questions. It should be treated like any other health and safety issue.
If an employee is sick and suspects they have been exposed, they need to tell the employer immediately. That should be part of Coronavirus policy. In this case, they should not be allowed to return to work, which might expose other employees to the same risk. They need to self-quarantine and not return to work until cleared.
Where an employee decides to self-isolate because they fit in the category that they are 60 years + and are at risk of catching the virus are they on unpaid leave or temporary layoff?
What if an employee does not follow the hygiene rules?
Employees must follow their employer’s reasonable instructions. Failure to do so for example by not washing hands, sneezing into a disposable tissue or their sleeve if a tissue is not available would entitle the employer to follow their disciplinary process.
Just like Manages and Supervisors, you absolutely need to keep your employees up to date. To communicate coronavirus-related news your employee, you can send out a group WhatsApp, memo, email or have a mandatory company meeting via skype/facetime.
You should try to complete this at least once a day to communicate to employees and what precautions we are taking to keep them safe. By completing this you it allows employees to see your policies, but it also reduces workplace panic. The more the employees feel informed the better they feel.
Your employee can get jobseekers weekly payment for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to people who are out of work and covered by Social Insurance PRSI
The DEASP request that all applications should be made either online or by post where possible.
You should instruct employees that during these difficult times, that it is best to keep a structure in their day. During a stressful time, they should do exercise, have regular sleep routines and healthy balanced diet. Practice relaxation techniques and search for online activities such as yoga and creative online activities to improve their mood.
All employers can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the public health advice. Employees and customers should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal. Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
Would my company be liable if an employee contracts coronavirus at work?
Employees who contract coronavirus on the job, particularly healthcare workers are entitled to get enhanced illness benefit. You may need to ensure that you have spoken with a medical professional to assist you in determining if there is a relationship between the hob and the employee being stricken with the coronavirus. Employers should follow reasonable practices for example, if a geographic area or industry is affected disproportionately by the illness, employers may collectively take extraordinary measures. It would probably not be a good idea not to heed this advice.
The right to have employees medically examined will depend on the particular contract or policy that the employer has in place. Where such a provision is in the place, and where an examination is justified considering all the circumstances, the employee cannot reasonably refuse to be medically examined.
Where no such contractual or policy provision exists, and the employer believes that there is a need to medically examine the employee in light of the status of the risk, then this should be conveyed to the employee and explained that it is in the best interests of the employee – and their colleagues – to agree to a medical examination to assess whether they are symptomatic.
Information gathered about the health of an employee will be classified as “special category data” under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Acts 1988-2018. It should be handled as such and kept strictly confidential.
Employers must be careful not to single out certain employees based on their nationality, racial or ethnic origin as this could lead to a risk of discrimination.
If due to the impact of the new coronavirus outbreak, an employer is affected by a drop in clients and cannot provide work. You must put your employees on temporary lay-off and claim from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Please be aware that if you get a phone call requesting your details this is a scam and you should not entertain.
As usual, it is important to maintain good hygiene practices around open food (e.g. unpackaged bread, cakes etc). However, it is possible that infected foods workers and or consumers would introduce the virus to food, by coughing and sneezing, or through hand contact. It is therefore important that they strictly follow good personal hygiene practices. Customers and food businesses are expected to behave in a hygienic manner and food business are obliged to monitor such displays. Food is not directly involved in the transmission of COVID-19. The main risk of transmission is from close contact with infected people. Hence the advice to public and employees alike is to wash your hands.
Technically there is no special advice for pregnant women, however, as each pregnancy is different and can cause its own underlying health concerns pregnant employees should be encouraged to contact their consulting hospital to advice of their work, work practices etc and have their consultant make the decision as to whether they should work in the workplace. If possible, consider working from home options that will allow them to continue to work. Pregnancy is not considered a sickness, and so should a pregnant employee choose not to work they are not entitled to sick pay.
So, if a doctor determines that their place of employment poses a risk to their health and the baby’s health the employee would be on health and safety leave. The first three weeks is paid by the employer.
Do employers need to offer paid leave?
If an employee fails ill with coronavirus, an employer should apply its sick leave policy, which may or may not provide for paid sick leave. Employees who are quarantined due to concerns they may have contracted the virus will need to be assessed on a case by case basis. Quarantine can work as a protective, preventative measure and if the employee is not actually sick, he or she may be able to work from home. If it transpires the employee has contracted the virus the employer will need to be notified and the employer’s sick leave policy will then be triggered. Employers should also consider applying their policy on force majeure, should an employee need to be absent from work for a few days due to one of their close family members falling ill or having a suspected case of the virus.
With the pay increased to €350 from the government, we are not regarded to be a non-essential business; the possibility is that all our part-time staff will start ringing in sick because they will get paid more by the government to stay at home.
The €350 figure will be applicable for staff who have been laid off. For an employee to avail of the illness benefit, they will need their doctor to send a medical certificate. So, they do need medical confirmation when dealing with these situations you follow your policy within your employee handbook e.g. Company doctor, request for medical certificates.
It is worth pointing out that the illness benefit is only for Covid 19 related cases and the ordinary benefit will apply to others. This includes Covid 19 confirmed isolation.
As such it is important that you emphasise that transferrable skills that may be specific to your industry. You must ensure in a difficult time that all aspects of your business are cover and that the company motivates others to achieve a specific goal on an individual, team and company level. Verbal communication is about communicating clearly and concisely with others, whether it is customer or an employee. Ensure you have a backup plan for your business to stay successful in these bad times. The term transferable skills collectively refer to such skills as communication, adaptability, or collaboration to name a few.
The Redundancy Payments Acts 1967–2012provide a minimum entitlement to a redundancy payment for employees who have a set period of service with the employer. Not all employees are entitled to this statutory redundancy payment, even where a redundancy situation exists. Contact ESA for advice.
etc, he has not self-isolated. What action should I take?
I have heard second hand; can I send home?
Staff member coughing – under health and safety legislation an employer has a duty of care. To this end I would suggest that the employee be immediately removed from work and told to get tested – a cough and or a temperature are symptoms of covid-19. If the employee tests positive and is certified, then sick pay can be paid – if they test negative, they should be allowed return to work and ideally be paid for the time they were off awaiting testing. Ensure all staff are washing their hands and the area where the employee worked cleaned down immediately.
I have an employee that is self-isolating and waiting to be tested are they entitled to be paid?
Self-isolation without being sick is just that self-isolation. Therefore, technically they are not to be paid sick pay. They could be offered to take their annual leave entitlements or perhaps consider parental leave. Self-isolation is for a minimum of 7 and max of 14 days so a Company can consider paying an employee during this time.
What if an employee is waiting to be tested for the virus?
Where an employee has contacted their GP because they have the symptoms or are waiting to be tested for the virus, they can apply for illness benefit specifically related to COVID -19. Employees whose test results are negative, they will still be entitled to be paid for the 2-week self-isolation period and will be treated as sick leave.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees and should always follow government travel advice. This is changing fast as the situation develops. All employees required to travel on business should be covered by travel insurance, but insurers are likely not to cover any travel warned against by government advice.
The World Health Organisation recommends that all employers carry out a risk assessment of future travel plans to areas affected by COVID-19, and that employers should avoid sending those at particular risk of severe COVID-19 to those areas.
All non-essential travel to an affected area should be postponed. If employees are unsure whether travel is essential (particularly if it is to an affected area), they should discuss it with Human Resources or their line manager. Decisions may also depend on the nature of the trip for example some employers are choosing to cancel attendance of conferences and large-scale events.
If a journey is necessary and not to be affected area, the employee may be expected to attend as usual. If an employee refused to travel to an unaffected area, because of their concerns about the coronavirus, then in principle this would amount to follow reasonable instruction and could expose the employee disciplinary process. In practice Employers would want to understand the reasons behind this and consider factors such as the employee’s circumstances.
An employee who is instructed to go abroad on business and then is unable to get home, or is required to isolate, because of the trip should be paid as usual for the period they cannot work.
When there is no work available the Company can implement temporary layoff and issue an RP9 form.
Currently the Government has provided a specific benefit for employees while on lay off. This is the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment payment please note on this document it also informs the employee to complete a UP1 form within 6 weeks. (Forms are available online).
The Government is currently encouraging employees to remain on payroll or at least in employment.
The lay off period can continue until the resolution of this pandemic.
Temporary Layoff can be a an indefinite period.
Part B of the RP9 form is when the employee seeks redundancy and they can seek or be entitled to the redundancy within that period of time “for 4 weeks or more consecutive weeks or for 6 weeks (not more than 3 consecutive) in a 13 week period….”.
If an employee completes part B and seeks their redundancy, they lose their entitlement to minimum notice. If the employee has more than 2 years’ service, they will qualify for statutory redundancy.
An employer can give a counter notice and not accept the employee’s request for redundancy if the employer can guarantee employment for the employee.
If the employee seeks redundancy and the employer cannot find employment for them, the statutory redundancy payment will be based on their length of service and there is a redundancy calculator online which can be used to establish the redundancy amount.
If the employer is unable to pay the statutory redundancy, the employer can process the redundancy through the insolvency fund. This is where the employee and employer complete an RP50 form online (providing personal details to include bank details) and submit same to the Redundancy Department. Furthermore, the employer would have to provide documentation to support their inability to pay.
When it comes to protecting your business, you must, must, must communicate with your Managers and keep them up to date.
To keep your business safe during the virus outbreak, you should follow the World Health Organisation or HSE website and news and for details pertaining to the coronavirus. Relay this by internal email or a daily app to relay all the valid information to Managers/Supervisors as soon as possible. This keeps all employees up to date about the situation and where the company stands that they are working for.
While you likely have the right to insist that anyone who has a fever or flu symptoms not visit your work facilities, it is advisable to ensure that any such policy is applied uniformly across all demographic groups. This includes contractors, vendors and visitors. A posted should be visible to anyone entering your facility.
If you do not have a work from home policy or plan, now is the best time to create one. All companies are finding alternative work arrangements to keep a limited number of employees coming into the office and avoiding contact.
Depending on your industry and business, you may not be able to give employees the luxury of working from home. Maybe you do not have or cannot afford additional equipment or maybe employees need to interact with customers face-to-face as part of their positions.
If possible, consider establishing a work from home policy. This must include employee eligibility, remote procedures and guidelines.
Can employers conduct temperature checks of employees, contingent workers and visitors on their way into the office?
Employees’ temperatures would constitute special category personal data under the GDPR, and therefore could realistically only be collected in the way if there is a substantial public interest in doing so.
In our view, simply recording that an employee’s body temperature is above/below the threshold (without recording the individual temperature would still constitute processing special category personal data. This is a significant risk that this measure would be considered disproportionate by the Data Protection, especially if it is enforced on all employees as a blanket measure. If there was a significant coronavirus outbreak in a specific location, then this sort of measure is more likely to be seen a proportionate in the circumstances, at least if other measures such as home working is not feasible.
We would recommend that you try not to use the printers as to the handling of paper by all your employees. We would recommend that you ensure that you only complete email, social media, video calls, phone calls and text messages.
If an employer is terminating an employee, it is the position not the person that they are terminating. Dismissal occurs when one of your employee’s losses their job, but the position remains open and is filled by someone else. Reasons for dismissal can be fair or unfair. Normally, an employee must have 12 months’ continuous service with you the employer to bring a claim for unfair dismissal.
All employees and employers must work together in harmony and abide by the World Health Organisation and the HSE guidelines and work actively together to ZAP this Virus together.