Covid-19 Update: Level 5 – What does it mean for employers?
On the 19th of October, the Taoiseach announced that the Republic of Ireland will be advancing into level 5 of the Framework for Restrictive Measures. Level 5 will commence from midnight on Wednesday the 21st of October and continue through to Tuesday the 1st of December.
Level 5 dictates that employees must work from home unless providing an essential service for which their physical presence is required.
Essential services include;
- Agriculture, horticulture, forestry, fishing, animal welfare and related services
- Supply, repair and installation of machinery and equipment
- Electricity, gas, water, sewage and waste management
- Construction and development
- Wholesale and retail trade
- Transport, storage and communications
- Accommodation and food services
- Information and communications
- Financial and legal activities
- Professional, scientific and technical activities
- Rental and leasing activities
- Administrative and support activities
- Public administration, emergency services and defence
- Human health and social work activities
- Community and voluntary services
- Diplomatic missions and consular affairs
Employers that are providing what is deemed to be an essential service are entitled to remain open while still maintaining social distancing protocols. It should be noted that under the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020, penalties may be imposed on those breaching the 5km rule, so it is recommended that essential service employers provide their employees with a written authorization stating that they are traveling for an essential purpose.
The government has confirmed that both the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme will be given new payment structures to provide for those who are unable to work from home, or for those who have been made unemployed as a result of the new restrictions.
Over €3.7 billion has already been spent on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, and the 2021 Budget allows for up to €3.2 billion to be spent on both the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).
Pandemic Unemployment Payment
When the Pandemic Unemployment Payment was first introduced by the government, it was paid at a flat rate of €350 weekly, regardless of what the employee had previously been earning. It has now been readjusted to take into account what a claimant was earning before the pandemic in an attempt to create a fairer and more sustainable system.
It has four stages as follows:
- Prior weekly earnings less than €200 will receive €203 per week
- Prior weekly earnings between €200 and €299.99 will receive €250 per week
- Prior weekly earnings between €300 and €399.99 will receive €300 per week
- Prior weekly earnings of €400 and over will receive €350 per week
These amendments will take effect from the 27th of October 2020 and are due to end on 1 April 2021, subject to any further extensions.
Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme
The Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme has also been amended to reflect the amendment to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. It has five stages as follows:
- Prior weekly earnings less than €151 will not receive any payment
- Prior weekly earnings between €151 and €203 will receive €203 per week
- Prior weekly earnings between €203 and €300 will receive €250 per week
- Prior weekly earnings between €300 and €400 will receive €300 per week
- Prior weekly earnings of €400 and up to €1,462 will receive €350 per week
The Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme aims to decrease the number of employees being made unemployed by encouraging employers to retain their employees insofar as is practicable.
You can learn more about the Employer Wage Subsidy Scheme here
For further information on this or any other employment matter please contact any member of the employment team.