Anne O'Connell Solicitors | View firm profile
On 17th December 2021, the latest restrictions were introduced which will have an adverse impact on the income for a number of businesses and their employees. Employers have had to lay off employees already and others are likely going to have to make layoffs in January. In anticipation of this, the Government announced significant expansion of supports to the businesses on 21st December 2021 and has also reopened the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) for new applicants for employees who have either lost their jobs or put on lay-off due to the recent restrictions. The Government has confirmed that the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) is now open for such businesses to support payment of employees’ salaries and has relaxed some of the previous stricter requirements. In doing this the Government has sought businesses to keep their employees employed and not to lay them off.
The EWSS will now be valid until 30th of April 2022 and to qualify to the scheme business need to show the below turnover rates:
- for businesses established on or before 30th April 2019 – the anticipated turnover for December 2021 and January 2022 should be down by 30% compared to turnover for December 2019 and January 2020; and
- for business established between 1st May 2019 ad 31st December 2021 – the average monthly turnover for December 2021 and January 2022 should be down by 30% compared with average monthly turnover across the period August 2021 to November 2021 or on a prorata basis.
The EWSS Subsidy rates can be found here.
The Government confirmed that Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) will be made available to the hospitality and indoor entertainment businesses which have made the decision to close their doors, rather than stay open, due to the latest restrictions. The Government has also agreed that the CRSS will be available to businesses established between 13th October 2020 and 26th July 2021, which was previously not covered. The turnover criteria which were at 25% reduction has however been increased to 40% reduction. This is also available to the businesses that can and have chosen to remain open with a drop in the turnover of 40% and above. The applicable rates can be found here.
While the re-opening of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (“PUP”) applications for employees has given employers some form of relief for their staff, it will not assist employers address the issues that they previously had in securing these staff to come back to work.
It must be noted that PUP is only available to workers who lose their employment as a direct result of the new restrictions introduced from 7th December 2021 onwards. The eligible employees may apply directly via www.MyWelfare.ie. The five applicable rates under the reopened PUP scheme are as below:
Weekly Earnings (Gross) Rate from 7 December 2021
€151.50- €200 €203
Less than €151.50 €150
The rates applicable for workers on PUP before July 7, 2021 has not changed and will be the same as specified here.
Interestingly, there is no sign of the Government freezing the employee’s right to claim statutory redundancy payment where they have been put on lay-off or their hours have been reduced by 50% or more. This right only arises if the employee is on lay-off or short-time for at least four consecutive weeks or six weeks in a 13-week period. As the current restrictions are in place for longer than four weeks, this is likely to put employers under significant pressure to either pay such employees statutory redundancy or respond to the notice of the claim from the employee within 7 days with the counter-claim form completed. If no temporary amendment is made to this entitlement by the Government, as it did in 2020, the employer will have to put the employee back on the payroll within 4 weeks of receipt of such a claim if they do not want to pay redundancy and ensure that such employees stay employed for a period of 13 weeks at least from the date of return.
A number of clients have queried about potential issues from employees who have not been put on lay-off. An employee may have claim if his/her selection for layoff was based on a discriminatory ground or was due to a health and safety complaint or a protected disclosure. However, an employee does not have a claim for not having been laid off.
Authors – Chaitra Girish Mallya & Anne O’Connell