Your employment rights during COVID-19 restrictions

Introduction

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish Government has implemented a range of restrictions.

From midnight on Friday 27 March, everyone should stay at home until 12 April 2020 with some exceptions. If you work in essential health, social care or other essential services and cannot work from home, you can work and travel to work.

In all other situations, employees must work from home. You can read more about working from home during COVID-19.

In some cases, it will not be possible to work from home. Your employer can continue to pay you under the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme while you are temporarily laid off from work or working fewer hours or you may be able to apply for a social welfare payment like the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

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

Who are essential workers?

Under the public health measures for COVID-19, certain work is classed as an essential health, social care or other essential service.

If you carry out an activity that is necessary for the continued provision of an essential service, then you are an essential worker. Your employer will notify you if you belong to a category of essential employees.

If you are an essential worker, you are allowed to travel to and from work. When travelling to and from work, you should bring:

  • Work identification or
  • A letter from your employer that states you are andan essential employee and
  • Another form of identification

If you are self-employed, a farmer or agricultural worker, or a member of the clergy, you should carry one form of identification with you at all times.

You can find a full list of essential services from gov.ie.

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

Your employer may close their business for this period and send you home. This is called a temporary lay-off. During lay off you remain an employee even if you are not being paid. Find out more about lay-off and short-time working.

Employers have asked been to retain employees where possible. On 24 March 2020, a new COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme was announced which will assist employers to pay their workers up to 70% of their weekly take home pay. This will mean that workers retain their link with employers and there is no need for them to personally submit a jobseeker's claim.

If your employer cannot pay you and you have lost all your employment, you can apply for the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

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

Changes to redundancy rules during COVID-19 emergency period

The law on claiming redundancy from your employer if you have been temporarily laid off, or temporarily put on short-time work hasl changed during the COVID-19 emergency period.

Normally, if you are laid off or put on short-time hours, you can claim redundancy from your employer after 4 weeks or more, or 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks.

Under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act, you will not be able to claim redundancy during the emergency period if you were laid off or put on short-time work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency period set out in legislation is 13 March 2020 to 31 May 2020. This period may be extended.

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 COVID-19 enhanced Illness Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. You can read more in our document on COVID-19 enhanced Illness Benefit.

If you have to care for someone who is sick with COVID-19 or have 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.

  • Force majeure leave (this is paid leave)
  • 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 the age 1 who was born after 1 November 2019

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.

You can read more about the childcare supports for parents in our document on childcare and COVID-19.

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

If you cannot do work 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

If your employer cannot pay you during the pandemic, you can apply for the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Statutory leave

You can also 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 or you have no other income , you can apply for means-tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

If you are pregnant

If you are pregnant and your employer has no work available, you should apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This applies both when your due date is within 16 weeks and if it is more than 16 weeks from the last day of your employment.

You should submit your Maternity Benefit application as normal. Your maternity leave should start no later than 2 weeks before the end of the week in which your baby is due.

If you are still getting a COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment when you are due to begin your maternity leave, you must close this claim and claim Maternity Benefit as normal.

You can read more about pregnancy and coronavirus and you can read information for pregnant women on COVID-19 from the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin.This information is available in 5 languages.

If you are a cross-border worker

You are a cross-border commuter (also known as a cross-border or frontier worker) if you live in one EU country but work in another and you go home at least once a week. As a cross-border worker, you must be treated in the same way as an employee who is a national of the country of employment as regards the right to apply for jobs, working conditions and social benefits.

If you are a cross-border worker living in Ireland and you had been working in Northern Ireland and you have lost your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

You can read more about the supports for cross border workers.

Page edited: 6 April 2020