The pandemic has required many businesses to make changes to their relationships with their employees. The pressures of business closures and restrictions have made it impossible for many businesses to fulfil their employment contracts.

Businesses may put their staff on short time which involves a person working less than 50% of their normal hours or receiving less than 50% of their normal pay. Or they may temporarily lay-off or furlough employees.

If the contract of employment or custom and practice in the workplace allows for short time and lay-off, then the employer may do so. In other cases, the employer must seek the agreement of the employee prior to making the decision. If the employee does not agree the employer may make the employee redundant.

Employers must not unfairly target part-time workers or fixed-term workers for selection for lay-off or reduced hours. They must also take care when selecting employees not to discriminate on the grounds of:

– Age
– Gender
– Civil Status
– Family status
– Sexual orientation
– Religion
– Disability
– Race
– Membership of the traveler community

Short term and lay-off are intended to be temporary measures, and in normal circumstances an employee would be entitled to claim a redundancy payment if their working time was altered for in excess of 4 weeks or any six weeks in the previous 13 weeks.

This right has been suspended as an emergency measure in light of Covid-19, but will resume again as of 30th November. If your business is not operating as normal, and your employees are on reduced working hours, you must be aware that claims for redundancy payment may be forthcoming. If an employer receives a notice from an employee that they intend to claim redundancy, they can respond offering a period of continuous work for at least 13 weeks (without lay off or short time) beginning within 4 weeks.

At this difficult time, it is important for employers to remain open and transparent with employees and for both employers and employees to work together flexibly, so as to ensure that businesses can resume trading normally again.

The above is intended for information purposes only, and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. Please contact us on 01 -676 3257 for advice specific to your needs. We, at Fitzsimons Redmond, would be delighted to work with you and your business in making sustainable decisions for your business.

By Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty, solicitor at Fitzsimons Redmond