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COVID-19

Client Memo May 12th_Covid-19_Return to Work Safely Protocols

Dear Client,

Last weekend the Government published its 'Return to Work Safely Protocol'.

This sets out the operational expectations on employers who conduct business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Employers need to take the provisions of this document seriously and make it a key part of their re-opening and operational plans.

To complement the Government 'Return to Work Safely Protocol', we have prepared a commentary document for Clients, highlighting and commenting on some of the key areas employers need to address.(see Useful HR Documents)

We have also included a template for our clients of a “Pre-Return to Work Questionnaire”, which the Government document instructs employers to use before welcoming an employee back to work following an absence.(see Useful HR Documents)

As always, we are available for further discussion and advice on 021-4634154 or info@tsaconsultants.ie

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Thursday April 30th 2020

Dear Client,

We hope this communication finds you and yours in good health.

As we continue to support you through the current crisis, we are moving our focus to the weeks and months ahead, and we urge you to prepare for the new realities, challenges and opportunities facing businesses in Ireland.
 
To help you with this, we have prepared and attached a report titled “Covid-19 Pandemic HR Considerations” which we hope you will find useful in identifying and addressing the legal and operational decisions you may need to consider, and their HR implications, as you move forward with your business.
 
There is a substantial amount of information in this report. Please be reminded that the content is designed to be read as general guidance to our clients and we would strongly recommend you contact us for advice on your specific set of circumstances as appropriate.

A copy of this report is available in the Useful HR Documents section of the Retainer Login area.

We remain fully available to support you in navigating these times,
 
Take care,

TSA Team
 

 

 

Client Memo: Thursday April 10th 2020

Dear Client,
 
For many employers, the dust has started to settle slightly in terms of addressing the queries related to the immediate financial and human impacts of business closures, reduced staffing and remote working. However, there are a number of areas which we would draw your attention to:
 
 Welfare Inspections
 
We have been made aware that Social Welfare inspectors are contacting clients who may have laid people off and are at the same time recruiting. The past few weeks have been hectic and lots of decisions have been made in haste. We would encourage all clients to reflect and check the following:
 

  • Have you placed some employees on lay off (removed them from payroll) yet are hiring others to support your roster at present? If so, can you show a clear logic to each instance?
  • Where employees have chosen to stay at home and given a genuine reason for this decision, can you be sure that they have not chosen to claim the Covid Pandemic welfare payment? Have you written to them to ensure there is clarity that they are off the roster of their own choice?

It is worth ensuring that every employee who is not working has received a letter from you confirming their position, especially if Welfare inspectors are looking into circumstances they view as unusual.
 
Wage Subsidy Scheme - Tax Considerations 
 
Employers and Employees who are utilising the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) must be aware that, while payments will be given in real time in a tax efficient manner, they are not tax free payments and the employee will have to pay tax on them in due course. Revenue have said they will look at this later in the year and are considering reducing people’s credits for 2021. However, there may still be a risk that employees will have a lump sum of tax taken out of their wages in late 2020.
Employers utilising the WSS would be wise to ensure that employees are aware of this and are not blindsided by it at a later time, possibly after the money is spent.
 
Moving Forward
 
The initial, reactive, phase we have found ourselves in now needs to move to more focused planning. For many employers, the restrictions led to an immediate and sharp decline in their business. In contrast, it is likely that the eventual lifting of these restrictions will, although welcome, follow a much more gradual trajectory.
 
Here at TSA we are now encouraging our clients to assess their current position as a result of COVID-19  and to start using this time to develop a clear strategy for re-opening and/or re-imagining their business. Review any learnings from the past few weeks, identify areas of improvement and set out an action plan. Also, look at the unexpected opportunities that this crisis may have brought and think about how you might leverage these.
 
On an immediate and practical level, start thinking about areas such as:
 

  • Do you have a clear and fair rationale behind your selection criteria for returning / non-returning employees?
  • Payroll- are you clear on what will need to be done to e.g. bring employees back from temporary lay-off / reduced working hours / Wage Subsidy Scheme?
  • What do your rosters look like? Can you accommodate employees requests for flexibility where appropriate?
  • What supports are in place for those employees who do return to work? Bear in mind the personal and/or financial pressures your employees may be under.
  • What about annual leave? Have you considered how you will manage this?
  • Performance management- are your employees clear on what you expect from them? Have some job-duties changed? Are there training gaps?
  • If you have remained open, should you consider e.g. a one-off bonus payment as a thank you to employees who have stayed the course?
  • Social distancing- restrictions (although not as stringent) may continue to be necessary.

 
From a HR Management and Employment Law perspective, a key consideration will be ensuring all the necessary HR processes, systems and paperwork are in place to support any and all of the above.  
 
We would urge you to keep up your focus on the weeks ahead, prepare for the new reality of business in Ireland and make sure you are ready when the time comes.
  

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Thursday April 2nd 2020

Dear Client,

It’s been an exceptionally uncertain and stressful time for both employers and employees alike. For now, we are taking a break from commenting on the Government supports (the good, the bad and the ugly!) and encouraging employers to take some time to consider other HR factors with, and for, their teams.

Rest assured that we will continue to support you as we move through this crisis and hopefully see a return to normality in the not too distant future!

Most businesses would now appear to be in 3 positions:

  1. Workplace is closed and employees are on lay-off (receiving either Social Welfare or the Revenue WSS)
  2. Workplace remains open.
  3. Employees are working from home.

For each of the above positions there are certain considerations which employers should take into account. We have listed some of these below to provide employers with reminders and suggestions to ensure they look after their people, irrespective of their current status.

  1. Closed and on Lay-Off

Technical Considerations

  • Did employees fill in the Welfare form for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment? If so, have they received confirmation from Social Welfare that their claim has been received and processed?
  • If an employee has a qualifying dependant adult and/or dependant child they may qualify for additional financial support under the Jobseekers Benefit payment. Therefore, they should speak to Social Welfare or Citizen’s Information directly about their personal circumstances to ensure they are in receipt of the best payment for those circumstances.
  • Have you registered for the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS)? Do you and/or your payroll provider fully understand how to process wages under this scheme?
  • Have you clearly advised your colleagues on lay-off of how and when they are likely to receive money?
  • While not HR, as an employer have you contacted landlords, suppliers, banks, utilities etc. to discuss your current position?
  • Have you researched further business supports such as the LEO Business Continuity Voucher which covers up to €2,500 in professional services support during this time (including HR support if you need it!) https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/Productivity/Lean-Business-Offer/Lean-Business-Continuity-Voucher.html 
  • Write a new business plan for the rest of the year. When you re-open will you be able to re-employ everyone immediately? What will customer sentiment in your sector be like after this?
  • Get stuck into your business ‘To Do’ list! It will involve tackling the admin. tasks you always put off, but consider creating or reviewing items like…GDPR policies, till procedures, employee handbook, staff contracts, safety risk assessments, social media pages, online management skills courses, business advice etc. Make time to look at the items you were always too busy to do but that are critical to your business!

Human Considerations

  • Keep in touch with your employees! Send them a regular mail to reassure them you care and hope they are well. Ring them for a chat and an update. Reassure them as best you can and offer any support you can.
  • Reach out and offer support if you feel your employees can be of assistance to other employers such as the HSE, nursing homes, food deliveries etc.
  • Provide information and ideas for staff to keep their minds fresh while out. Suggest and provide information on online courses or updated training they could do while out.
  • Conduct a type of employee appraisal and give individual feedback to your team to consider and upskill while they are out. If, when they return, they have made improvements consider a modest reward for them. E.g. complete online refresher training or sign off on the latest employee handbook and you will consider a €20 voucher for completing this homework when they return to work.
  • Network remotely with other business owners to generate ideas for how you can all get through this, offer support to your colleagues and community and prepare for re-opening in a few weeks. This crisis has seen a welcome return of community spirit and collegiality in communities so let’s build on this and plan for business generating activities when we are back up and running.
  1. Workplace Still Open

Technical Considerations

  • Ensure you have communicated with employees on their terms and conditions while you remain open.
  • Ensure any new, temporary, employees have specified purpose or fixed term contracts of employment.
  • While you are still trading, do you qualify for the Revenue Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS)? Has your trade suffered a significant negative impact due to Covid 19 (-25%) and are you struggling to pay wages and outgoings? Some businesses may qualify to participate in this scheme even if their employees are working full time or are on reduced hours.
  • In a scenario where your team are working reduced hours, you should consider whether participation in the Wage Subsidy Scheme will compensate your employees to the same or greater level as the financial supports offered through Social Welfare under the Short Time Work Support, which is a form of Jobseekers Benefit.
  • Ensure you exchange safety information with other workers visiting your store (e.g. delivery drivers) to ensure they meet the same high standards that your employees do.
  • The National Safety Authority (NSAI) have also collated some practical guidance on this.

Human Considerations

  • At every opportunity, motivate and congratulate your employees on the job they are doing. People who never thought or considered being on the frontline as essential workers during a crisis are now doing exactly that! Many are paid the same or less than the current Welfare payment of €350 net. Many employers are busy also and forget to talk to their employees, especially in such a pressurised time. Don’t forget! Constantly talk to your team and personally thank them for the efforts they are making.
  • Ensure that all social distancing requirements are clearly communicated and are met. Check you have adequate signage in place!
  • Ensure that your social media channels clearly communicate and reflect the legitimate public services reasons you are remaining open, to avoid a PR backlash. Remember to regularly update your trading hours online.
  • Any employee that has an underlying medical issue, or where there is a family member with same, on a risk assessment basis should not be asked to work (where this has been confirmed by their GP in writing).
  1. Working From Home

Technical Considerations

Human Considerations

  • Are employees clear on the level of output you require from them and have you thought about how you will manage their performance?
  • Remember to check in regularly with employees, some people will thrive on working from home while others may find it more challenging.
  • Encourage employees to engage with colleagues to maintain the social connections they have built up in the workplace and keep in touch with progress on projects etc.
  • EAP-Employee Assistance Programs can provide supports for employees and are available as a product from most of the main private health insurers.

All employees will benefit from taking pro-active steps to protect their mental health. The HSE have published some advice on this and we would encourage you to share this with your employees: https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/mental-health/minding-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html

Remember, no matter which of the above circumstances you find yourself in, the current situation is posing a lot of challenges for employers and employees alike. As the situation is constantly evolving and we are all seeing big changes in how we engage with one another, the importance of clear and regular communication with both your team and customers has never been more important. We will continue to support you as you work through the challenges and opportunities within your business so please do not hesitate to call us for advice and guidance.

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Monday March 30th 2020

Dear Client,

Further to our communication to you last Friday 27th, Revenue have published additional details on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

While there has been some additional clarity provided by this, be mindful that Revenue will still expect employers to furnish documentation in support of any claim and employers will be required to fully co-operate with all follow-up discussions or checks.

We would continue to recommend you exercise caution before signing up to the scheme and we strongly encourage you to speak to your financial advisor / accountant before making any final decision.

That being said, for those still keeping employees in work and for many on lay-off who earn more than the €350 flat welfare payment, this is the only real mechanism (besides temporary rent/revenue payments relief) to obtain some payroll support.

Employers are signing up for the scheme, at least for some of their team, and are hopeful that Revenue remain true to the spirit of their scheme and be reasonable and fair when examining an employer’s eligibility in more detail later in the year.

We will continue to monitor and inform you of developments as they arise and we remain fully available to discuss any areas of concern you may have.

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Friday March 27th 2020

Dear Client,

This is just a short note to catch up on the current position regarding Government employment supports and our thoughts on same, based on our interpretation of them and the feedback from hundreds of clients and contacts over the past 48 hours.

The decision to increase the Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payment to a flat rate of €350 for everyone, is, on the one hand, an understandable step by Government to keep money in people’s pockets but it is also clearly a disincentive to work if your workplace has not closed.

It will make it very hard to recruit temporary staff to help out if needed and has impacted staff morale across the country. It has devalued working and given rise to a number of grievances from those employees still working hard, who are now viewing this Social Welfare payment as a more favourable option. This is either because as (i) as a part-time employee they will 'earn' more money through this Social Welfare flat rate than working, or (ii) they now view their weekly salary less favourably. This is particularly true when they deduct their costs and when they see others staying safe at home claiming €350 while they continue to travel to work.

From speaking with a number of businesses since this announcement, the negative impacts of the increase are clear to see and many employers have noted that certain employees are now asking to be laid off and more are threatening to resign so they can avail of Social Welfare, particularly as the form to apply for this payment does not require any information or confirmation from the employer!

Furthermore, Revenue are, disappointingly, stopping their ‘rebate’ facility whereby an employer could mirror welfare and give the Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payment via their payroll and get it back from Revenue the next day. Instead, Revenue are now running a ‘Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme’ whereby qualifying employers can claim for 70% of an employee’s normal net wage up to a limit of €410 (€350 limit for net weekly wages between €586 and €960, and nothing permitted for wages over this)

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/communications/covid19/temporary-covid-19-wage-subsidy-scheme.aspx

The Government are even suggesting that employers take their teams off the Social Welfare €350 per week and instead give them 70% of their weekly wage, even though in many instances this makes the employee substantially worse off.

While the employer does not have to top up beyond the 70%, many feel a moral pressure to do so.

The first major issue is a clear difference financially between the 2 schemes. For employees on less than €500 net per week, the Revenue 70% cannot compete with the 'no questions asked' €350 Social Welfare are promising people.

The other main problem is the lack of fine detail provided by Revenue to date and the nervousness this creates, as clear guidelines outlining the conditions associated with employers qualifying for this Wage Subsidy Scheme are yet to be published.

As advised, you have to sign a self-declaration and be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Revenue, that you have lost 25% of your turnover AND have cash flow difficulties that make paying your outgoings and wages not possible due to Covid 19 difficulties.

Employers simply do not trust that they do qualify, or that Revenue would agree with them that they qualify later in the year, which may result in Revenue issuing demands of repayment and penalties. It is not clear how factors such as monies put aside (for stock, investments etc.) and turnover of parent companies would influence Revenue’s assessment of their financial standing.

For this reason in the past 48 hours Government policy, and a lack of clarity, has led more and more employers who wanted to use the Revenue rebate model and help DEASP by mirroring their payment through payroll, shy away from the new Revenue Wage Subsidy Scheme and break ties with their employee. This is understandable as both parties seem financially better off with the employee claiming directly from DEASP and, furthermore, the employer does not have the stress or concern of justifying their financial position to Revenue either now or in the future.

This is causing frustration and downright anger amongst the small and medium employers of Ireland and rest assured we have submitted your concerns and raised these issues to all relevant Government departments.

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Wednesday March 25th 2020- 5 PM

Dear Client,

Thank you for bearing with us on what has been a very busy day!

Our team has been dealing with a huge number of calls and we are working through these as quickly as we can.

We understand and share the level of frustration which many of you are feeling in relation to the recent announcements by Government. Along with a lack of information on the specific details, there also appear to be some contradictions and flaws in the scheme.

We can only reassure you that we are posing your questions to the various departments to find satisfactory answers for you.

A key question raised has been; “Are employees financially better off on the €350 payment per week and is this a disincentive to presenting for work?”

The Covid Pandemic Payment (yellow) form doesn’t actually make employees declare that they have actually been laid off. We are worried that employees will choose not to attend work and will submit that form stating that their employer is not paying them and chance a claim for the very appealing €350.

This increase from €203 to €350 has clearly made staying at home much more attractive for a large number of employees, particularly in essential services where their employer wants to remain open. We have had strike threats and claims for wage increase and failing that employees are threatening to raise safety issues and stay at home in a bid to force the employer to close.

If an employer breaks the relationship with their employees and hands them over to Social Welfare, the employee gets €350. It appears this remains a flat payment irrespective of the employees weekly wage. If the same employer keeps the employee on their system and uses the new subsidy scheme they can only claim for 70% of the actual weekly wage of the employee and even if they add 30% themselves the employee could still be better off on €350 welfare. The employer also does not have to justify or prove its eligibility to Revenue. It seems attractive for both to claim the €350 via Social Welfare

There are still many questions to be answered in terms of the actual workings of the scheme, eligibility criteria and how exactly rebates will be processed. Employers are understandably nervous about the certainty of these rebates. For example, where wage bills have been reduced due to lay-offs, will this cost reduction work against employers who might wish to avail of the wage subsidy scheme?

Rest assured we are pressing the Government to get clarity on all the issues raised by our clients and we will keep you informed as things develop.

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Wednesday March 25th 2020- AM

Dear Client,

Another day, another Covid 19 update!

Yesterday afternoon the government announced significant updates to their Income Support Scheme for those out of work and for those businesses operating but who are negatively impacted due to the Covid 19 situation.

We understand that this update will prompt a lot of queries from clients, however, at present we may not have all the answers, and we expect the Government don’t quite yet either! We will pass on what we do know from our discussions with Social Welfare and Revenue officials on behalf of our clients and are available to answer calls from you at any stage.

If you are closed, your employees are laid off and have sent in the yellow, one page, Covid Pandemic Payment form. Social Welfare will now give them €350 a week for the duration of the Pandemic, not just €203 for 6 weeks.

https://www.gov.ie/en/service/be74d3-covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment/

This remains a relatively simple scheme, administered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). It is flawed, of course, as it appears that part time workers will get the same as full time workers, 2018 PRSI contributions are not relevant to qualify for it and the level of payment makes it attractive for workers to stay home, and safe, instead of applying to work in other areas of the economy where jobs exist. They may also be less enthused to return to work when the employer wants to reopen in a few weeks. 

That being said, people will need money in their pockets, and bank account, to allow the economy kick back in properly when this is over. The level of support being provided by the Government is unprecedented.

As we have advised, The Revenue Commissioners have been running an employer rebate scheme for the above €203 (now €350) payment where the employees have not sent a form into DEASP and have not been ‘ceased’ on the employer payroll. That scheme, while only a week old, has now been ceased and is replaced with the Temporary Covid 19 Wage Subsidy Scheme:

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/communications/covid19/temporary-covid-19-wage-subsidy-scheme.aspx

Right now from March 26th, it is giving up to a maximum of €410 per week, by virtue of a refund mechanism, to employers who pay employees via payroll whether they are in work or not.

In April, once more details have been figured out and announced, a subsidy of up to 70% of an employee’s net weekly wage capped at €410 per week will be introduced. More specifics on this will be provided by Revenue in due course.

If an employer has already registered for the old flat rebate scheme they do not need to reapply and they, or their payroll agent, will be advised on the details of the new scheme in due course.

To avail of this 12 week subsidy you have to make a self-declaration and be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of Revenue that you have lost 25% of your turnover and have cash flow difficulties that make paying your outgoings and wages not possible due to Covid 19 difficulties. In addition, you must also retain your employees on the payroll, and the scheme is confined to employees who were on your payroll as at Feb 29th 2020 and for whom a payroll submission has already been made to Revenue in the period from Feb 1st 2020 to March 15th 2020.

We do have concerns relating to this scheme, given the lack of details from Revenue in relation to their 70% support scheme. The vagueness of how an employer can prove they qualify for it, how quickly rebates will be facilitated through Revenue and the fact that employer names who avail of the scheme are published online may drive employers to keep it simple and let employees go and let them claim the €350 from Social Welfare.

We are continuing to liaise with stakeholders within the Government to raise our concerns and outline potential pitfalls in relation to these Income Support Schemes. We have already been advised that our concerns relating to paying a flat rate of €350 to all employees, which will create the negative impact of employees wanting to stay home (even in a case where their employer can provide work) has been noted and steps to address this anomaly will be taken immediately.

We will continue to update you all as new information is released. In the meantime, the TSA team are available to discuss this recent update with you further.

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Tuesday March 24th 2020

We hope you are keeping well and we are just touching base to let you know that we are constantly monitoring developments and will keep you abreast of concrete Government decisions when they are made. 

Last Friday afternoon the Government announced that employers could top up the €203 Covid payment and still claim a rebate for the €203, but we still await full details on this.

If you intend doing this, we strongly recommend that you wait to process this through payroll until later this week when the government has advised they will release further information. 

To avail of the basic rebate (where the employer is not topping up) the latest information from Revenue in guiding employers payroll processes indicates that;

  • Employees that have been temporarily laid off due to Covid-19, and not ceased on the employer’s payroll, can receive the weekly payment of €203 via their employer.
  • Employers operating the rebate scheme should not cease temporarily laid off employees on their payroll system. If this has already happened then do not operate the rebate and instead get your employees to fill in the yellow Covid Pandemic form and claim directly from DEASP.
  • Employers who are not operating the scheme should cease the employments of their laid-off employees as DEASP will need to be able to see the cease date in order to process applications.

NOTE: 'Ceasing' an employee on payroll is not the same as terminating their employment! It merely means you cannot provide them with any pay until they rejoin.

In addition, there is a strong likelihood that further announcements related to employee payments will be made later this week.

As pressure has mounted over the weekend, the Government look to be considering a more widespread long-term mechanism whereby circa 70% of wages, up to a reasonable cap, would be paid for by the Government.This is line with what other countries such as Denmark and the UK have committed to, but will require considerable detailed analysis and planning if it is to operate effectively.

We would hope any decisions are published quickly as there is obviously a need for clarity around this.

As always, our full team is available to discuss any queries or issues which you may have and we are contactable on 021-463 4154.

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Friday March 20th 2020

We are pleased to announce that the Dept of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) have announced they will correct an anomaly to their employer rebate scheme that will allow employers who are able ‘top up’ the wages of a laid off employee and still avail of the €203 rebate.

This news has just been announced and the exact mechanisms of how this will work will be available later via the DEASP website.

TSA alerted the Dept to this anomaly yesterday on behalf of our clients and we are glad to see they have listened to the concerns of employers who want to do what they can for their colleagues but not lose out on Government support.

We will advise on the specific details when they are available.

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Thursday March 19th 2020

The Revenue Commissioners and DEASP have announced further details on the employer rebate scheme for employees that retain employees on their books while they are laid off and availing of the Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

This can only apply for employees who have not yet filled in the one page application form and sent it to the DEASP.

 

Please find details of the scheme below:

https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/355f2c-doherty-announces-details-of-the-covid-employer-refund-scheme/

https://www.revenue.ie/en/news/articles/employer-covid-19-refund-scheme.aspx

 

We remain available to discuss this with clients at any stage.

TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Thursday March 12th 2020

The Covid 19 Coronavirus Pandemic is critically affecting all aspects of social norms in Ireland with further restrictions and development being announced.

Obviously this is a public health issue first and foremost and in the national interest everyone needs to ensure their actions do not compromise the health of the public especially elderly or vulnerable people with underlying health issues.

We have endeavoured to keep clients up to speed with HR specific information and as of now, we would provide the following real-time update;

- It is now recommenced that any employee who can work from home does so.

- Non-essential work travel and meetings should be postponed.

- It remains the case that where business premises remain open that sensible provisions are made for spacing of workers and/or customers to minimise contact. Good hygiene practices continue to be promoted with sanitising products available for use. 

- Where an employee, employer or colleagues have a genuine concern about the need to self-isolate, medical advice must be sought. An employee is only eligible for the enhanced and immediate welfare payment of up to €305 per week when recommended by a Doctor in line with HSE guidelines.

- With the closure of schools, employers will have to understand the position this places parents in. If a parent cannot report to work because of school and childcare closures then they are on unpaid leave but each employer needs to consider their own roster requirements and if possible work with parents to see if the possibility to work certain shifts exists. We will all have to wait and see when the schools reopen.

- Employers whose operations have been negatively affected by this situation may have to look at reducing wage costs. We can only recommend that this is done in a structured and deliberate manner and based on a deliberate target. Consider what labour cost savings may be needed. Consult your contracts of employment and/or employee handbook. Does it reference flexibility or lay off/short time? How many parents may need to take unpaid leave? Are you shutting the business down temporarily in which case everyone needs to go on lay-off (recommended to be done with an RP9 form)? Can you look at a 3 days week? Last in, first out is generally viewed at the fairest way to allocate cuts but in certain circumstances, key skills may need to be retained in the business. There are many ways to achieve labour cost savings but each scenario will be different.

- Communicate with your employees. Keep short and simple communications with your team members to honestly appraise them of the effects this situation is having on your business and of the possible steps that may be coming down the line and how this may impact them. Make sure you find the line between honesty and scaremongering. Keep communications free of dramatic language and base it on fair and honest facts.

We remain available to support clients. In the first instance it is best to try our landline on 021 4634154 and a consultant will revert to you as soon as possible, bearing in mind we have a lot of traffic through our system on this topic.

 TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Friday March 6th 2020

As we head into the weekend the HSE are still classifying the risk of contracting Covid-19 to be low to moderate. While this obviously may change, for now most people will continue to go about their business as usual and we remain in a containment phase.

https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html

It is expected that people will take all reasonable precautions in protecting themselves from the virus and that common sense will prevail when it comes to assessing risk and taking responsibility for correct personal hygiene practices to limit the spread of Covid-19. 

The response from Government to date would appear to be proportionate to the level of risk identified so far. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) has also given some clarification on the income supports currently available to affected employees. High level talks continue at government level in conjunction with representatives from ICTU, IBEC, CIF and Chambers Ireland but for now the position is as per below;

Where an employee is diagnosed with the virus:

·         Employers should follow their normal procedures for sickness and absence

·         Employees can apply for Illness Benefit from the DEASP based on their social insurance contributions (6 day wait period)

·         Employees can also apply for the means-tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance

 

Where employees self-isolate, it appears this will be classified under absence. Please see the outline below of the current support payments which employees can apply for;

 

 1.Self-Isolation Certified by Doctor:

·         Payment as per company Sick Leave / Absence Policy

·         Employee can apply for Illness Benefit 

·         Employee can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance

 

2.Self-Isolation Not Certified by Doctor:

·         Payment as per company Sick Leave / Absence Policy

·         Employee can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance

 

3.Self-Isolation Requested by Employer:

·         To be discussed on a case by case basis with the employee

·         Employee can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance 

 

The Government is under pressure to follow the UK lead and enact emergency legislation to provide immediate access to social welfare and avoid the 6 day waiting period for Illness Benefit.

Employers may also be conscious of any layoff or short-time clause in their terms of employment. If employers decide to close a business on a temporary basis, employees would also be able to apply for jobseekers benefit in this event.

Obviously the key consideration in mitigating the risks of contracting Covid-19 continues to be the practice of good hygiene. We would again urge all employers to pro-actively communicate with their staff and to ensure that all necessary aids (soap / hand-sanitizers / cleaning equipment etc.) are readily available and that hygiene is top of everyone’s agenda. https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/protect-yourself.html

You may also wish to look at contingency measures for your business in the event that circumstances change. You may find the attached checklist from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to be useful for this.

https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/Business-Continuity-Planning-Checklist-COVID-19.pdf

We will continue to monitor the situation. As always, please feel free to contact any of the team here for advice or support and the websites below continue to be useful sources of information.

 https://www.ecdc.europa.eu (European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control),

https://www.who.int (World Health Organisation)

https://www.hse.ie (Health Service Executive)

https://www.hsa.ie (Health & Safety Authority)
 

 TSA Team

 

Client Memo: Monday March 2nd 2020

As you are more than likely aware, there has been a confirmed case of Covid-19 in Ireland.

While there as yet does not appear to be any cause for alarm, this continues to be an evolving situation and we would advise all clients to remain abreast of developments. We recommend accessing up-to-date information on official websites such as;

 

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu (European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control),

https://www.who.int (World Health Organisation)

https://www.hse.ie (Health Service Executive)

https://www.hsa.ie (Health & Safety Authority)

 

While the advice from the HSE and Government has not changed and it is ‘business as usual’ in most quarters, it remains prudent for employers to take a pro-active approach in terms of communication with employees, customers and suppliers. We recommend you evaluate they ways in which the virus could affect your business and consider an appropriate action plan so you are prepared.

In addition, you should conduct a risk assessment for your business and for each of the groups mentioned above, based on their interaction with your business. For example, you should consider how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 within the workplace by placing hand sanitizer and signs at all points of entry to ensure all those who enter your premises use the sanitizer provided; consider reducing any non-essential travel; consider your ability to offer flexible working arrangements, if required to do so, particularly for those who may have existing underlying health concerns and those who are pregnant.

The situation is unprecedented, however reasonable logic should prevail and clear guidelines around Health & Safety practices should help ensure we all play our part in containing the risks to public health.

We recommend that, in addition to displaying the official posters provided by the HSE (attached) and clearly stressing the importance of correct hygiene procedures, you also ensure you have adequate supplies of sanitary equipment in place such as tissues, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers etc. It is also reasonable to request employees exercise prudence in their travel plans and that any such travel is only undertaken following an evidence-based risk assessment.

 

 TSA Team