Covid-19 Can I use lay off and short time to cope with Covid-19 ?
In the current fight against the corona virus Covid-19 many employers thoughts are turning to the use of short time and lay off. This short guide will help employers in Ireland understand the uses and benefits of the short time and lay off provisions in Irish employment law
Lay off and short time defined
These are set out in the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2014. Short time is where an employee’s hours of work or pay are reduced to less than 50% of normal weekly hours or pay. Lay off is where an employer is temporarily unable to provide sufficient work for the employee.
You must have a reasonable belief that the situation is temporary.
You would normally have to give notice, but in the current Covid-19 crisis short notice could be justified.
You must not discriminate when choosing the employees to lay off or put on short time.
Must I pay workers on short time or lay off ?
To answer this you need to examine each workers contract of employment. There must be a clause in the contract allowing you to place a worker on short time or lay off without their consent.
It may be the custom and practice in your particular industry to do so, in which case you could argue that you have an implied right to do so.
What about redundancy payment ?
The entitlements mentioned in this paragraph, regarding claiming redundancy payment, have been suspended for the emergency period (From 13 March 2020 to 31 May 2020, this period may be extended) following the introduction of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act (Covid-19) 2020
An employee can notify the employer in writing of their intention to claim statutory redundancy payment, provided they meet the criteria. This right arises where the employee has been laid off or put on short time for 4 or more consecutive weeks. Where the periods have not been consecutive, the period is 6 or more weeks within a 13 week period of which not more than 3 are consecutive. The notice must be given by the employee to the employer before 4 weeks of the ending of the lay off or short time period.
You as an employer can give a counter notice to the employee, denying the redundancy payment on the grounds that you can offer them at least 13 weeks work without being laid off or put on short time.
Consider the use of annual holidays
As an employer you can decide when an employee takes their annual holidays. You must take into account the employee’s family responsibilities and opportunity for rest and recreation. You must consult with the employee or their trade union at least one month before the leave is to be taken.
This is just a short summary of what is available to you as an employer in terms of lay off and short time working.