Lay-off, short-time working and redundancy


Many businesses have been forced to temporarily lay off staff or reduce their working hours (put on short-time) during COVID-19. The difference between them can be confusing and you have different rights in each situation.

In short, a lay-off is when your employer tells you that they expect you to have no work for a temporary period and you will not be paid. If a lay-off goes on for certain period of time, you may be entitled to claim for redundancy.

On the other hand, short-time working is when your hours and pay are reduced due to a decrease in work.

For each situation, we explain your rights, your social welfare supports and tell you how to claim redundancy. Please note that during COVID-19, the redundancy rules have changed.

If your job has been affected by COVID-19, you can get more information about employment rights during the COVID-19 restrictions.

What is the difference between a lay off and short-time working?


You may be facing a lay-off if your employer:

  • Can't provide work for you
  • Believes this is a temporary situation
  • Gives you notification of the lay off before the work finishes

If you are laid off, while you may not be working, you are still an employee of the company. This means that, although, you are not being paid, you have rights.

Short-time working

Short-time working refers to a specific temporary situation where either:

  • Your weekly pay is less than half your normal weekly pay
  • The hours you work are reduced to less than half of your normal weekly working hours

Your employer must notify you of the reduction in hours or pay (or both) before short-time working starts.

What social welfare payments can I get during a lay-off or short-time working?

There are social welfare supports available, depending on your situation.

Your situation What you need to do How it works
You have been laid off as a result of COVID-19, but your employer wishes to apply for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) Keep in touch with your employer.

Your employer will apply for funding to the State.

Your employer may continue to pay you most or all of your pay through the EWSS
Your working hours are reduced to 3 days or less per week Apply for Short-Time Work Support

This is a form of Jobseeker’s Benefit
Your employer has decided to close their business and temporarily lay you off and cannot pay you Apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment The government will provide you with financial support.

People getting Working Family Payment and students who have lost employment can also apply.

You can read more about social welfare payments and COVID-19.

Your rights for short-time working and lay-off

You have rights and your employer must follow rules if they bring in temporary lay-offs or short-time working arrangements.

It must be in your contract or with your agreement

Your employer can lay you off or put you on short-time if:

  • It is in your contract of employment
  • It is custom and practice in your workplace

Otherwise, your employer will need your agreement to lay you off or put you on short-time. However, if you do not agree, you may be made redundant.

You can read more about your options if you do not agree in our page on being asked to reduce your pay or hours of work.

Employer must give you notice and keep you informed

Your employer should explain the reason for the lay-off or short-time working to you. They should keep you informed of the situation during the period of lay-off or short-time working.

Both a lay-off or short-time must be temporary situations and your employer must give you notification of this before they start. During COVID-19, you may have been given very short notice.

Employer must be fair and can’t discriminate when selecting employees

When selecting employees for lay-off or short-time working, employers should apply the same criteria for selection as for redundancy. The criteria should be reasonable and applied fairly.

For example, the custom and practice in the workplace may be last in, first out, or the contract of employment may set out criteria for selection.

Under employment equality law, the selection must not discriminate against employees on any of the following 9 grounds:

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Religious belief
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation or
  • Membership of the Traveller community

You still receive public holiday benefit during lay-off or short-time

During lay-off or short-time working, you still are employed by your employer and your contract of employment remains valid. This means that you are entitled to benefit for any public holidays that occur during the first 13 weeks of lay-off.

Part-time employee must have worked at least 40 hours in the 5 weeks before the public holiday to receive this benefit.

You do not build up annual leave during lay-off, but you are entitled to take annual leave that you built up before being laid off.

Lay-off and reckonable service

To qualify for statutory redundancy, you must have 104 weeks of reckonable service with your employer. Reckonable service does not mean how many weeks you were employed for; it means how long you were actually in work doing the work. So reckonable service does not include holidays and periods you were absent through illness, career break or parental leave.

In this way, a period of lay-off is not reckonable service.

This means:

  • If you are laid off and you have less than 104 weeks of reckonable service, you do not qualify for statutory redundancy.
  • Your period on lay-off is not used to calculate your redundancy lump sum.

Laid off due to COVID-19?

Please see the table below to see what counts towards reckonable service.

What period IS counted towards reckonable service

The period you received …

What period IS NOT counted towards reckonable service

The period you received …

Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP)
Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) A jobseeker’s payment
Another social welfare payment

How to claim redundancy from your employer

The information below describes the law on claiming redundancy during a short-time or lay-off period. These rules do not apply during the COVID-19 emergency period. See ‘Changes to redundancy rules during COVID-19’ below.

You can claim redundancy if you are on a lay-off or short-time working or a combination of both for either:

  • At least 4 consecutive weeks
  • 6 weeks within the last 13 weeks

You may be entitled to a redundancy payment provided that you qualify for redundancy.

When you claim for redundancy in a lay-off situation, you are stating that you believe that your employer cannot offer you work. And you want to be released from your contract, wish to receive your redundancy payment and want to look for new work.

A lay-off does not involve the termination of your contract of employment, whereas a redundancy does.

Step 1: Give your employer your written notice

You must give your written notice within 4 weeks after the lay-off or short-time working ends.

Step 2: Your employer responds or does not respond

Your employer has 7 days to either accept your claim or give you ‘counter notice’. If your employer does not give you counter notice, they are assumed to have accepted your claim.

Counter notice is when your employer tells you that there will be work for you to do that will:

  • Start in the next 4 weeks from the date of your claim
  • Last at least for 13 weeks without lay-off

It may be difficult for your employer to guarantee 13 weeks of unbroken work with the rapidly changing nature of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

How claiming redundancy affects your right to receive notice

You should note that if you claim redundancy, you have left your job voluntarily. Therefore, you lose any right to notice from your employer.

However, if you have been laid off and you are later made redundant by your employer, you keep your right to receive notice.

You can get more information in our frequently asked questions on redundancy.

What law covers claiming redundancy?

The Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2014 covers redundancy rules.

Changes to redundancy rules during COVID-19

If you were put on lay-off or short-time hours because of COVID-19, you cannot claim redundancy.

This is set out in the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act (pdf) and applies from 13 March 2020. This rule has been extended until 30 June 2021. It will be further extended to 30 September 2021, as set out in the Economic Recovery Plan 2021.

If an employer has verified financial difficulties caused by COVID-19 emergency measures, they will be supported through a COVID-19 Deferred Payment arrangement. Details of the deferred payment will be worked out at a later date.

You can take up other work while on lay-off. This will not affect your claim for redundancy from your first employer.

Where to get more information

For more information on your employment rights, contact:

Workplace Relations Commission - Information and Customer Service

O'Brien Road
R93 E920

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
Page edited: 1 June 2021