COVID-19 Employer Alert: Entering Phase 2 and Extension of Government Employment Supports
Our Employment Group outlines the most significant Government announcements of 5 June for employers and employees.
A revised Phase 2 and acceleration of the roadmap
On 5 June progression to Phase 2 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business was announced effective from 8 June. The Government also announced an acceleration of the existing Roadmap based on recommendations of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), medical evidence and Government reports on the social and economic impact of COVID-19. Phase 5 has been removed and, as such, there are two further phases anticipated both of a 3 week duration.
Phase 3 is due to commence on 29 June with Phase 4 beginning on 20 July. Progression through the phases remains subject to COVID-19 infection levels remaining low. All businesses are expected to be open from 20 July once they are in a position to implement the safeguards in the Return to Work Safely Protocol and any sector specific guidance that may be issued. On 1 June the HSE Health and Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) published specific COVID-19 guidance for the childcare sector (available here) which will be reopening from 29 June. The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) will publish guidelines for shopping centres in advance of their large scale reopening on 15 June. NPHET is expected to develop guidance for the hospitality sector by 29 June when many hotels, restaurants and bars (only those serving food) can reopen.
Our briefing on the Protocol is available here.
Phase 2 of the Roadmap
The Government stressed the following 5 points for Phase 2:
- Stay Local: Individuals can travel within their own county, and up to 20 kilometres from their home if crossing county boundaries. National travel limits will be lifted from 29 June.
- Meeting other people: Groups of up to 6 people from outside a household can meet (indoors or outdoors) for social gatherings. Organised outdoor exercise, sporting, cultural or social activities of up to 15 people may take place.
- Shops: All retail outlets can reopen at Phase 2, but opening times will be staggered to relieve pressure on public transport. However shopping centres can only re-open on 15 June in line with the expected NSAI guidelines to be published. These guidelines will supplement the NSAI’s existing Retail Protection and Improvement Guide (available here).
- Work from home: The importance of continuing to work from home where possible was stressed.
- Transport: People should only use public transport if absolutely necessary and wearing a face covering is recommended. Public transport capacity will be limited because of social distancing requirements.
Extension of state supports for employers and employees
COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme
The Government introduced the COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme in response to the COVID-19 crisis. It was initially available to employers for 12 weeks from 26 March. On 5 June it was announced that the Scheme would be extended to the end of August.
It is available to employers who keep employees on the payroll throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning employers can retain links with employees for when business picks up after the crisis. Employers are encouraged to facilitate employees by operating the scheme, by retaining employees on their books and by making best efforts to maintain employees’ net income as close as possible to normal net income for the duration of the subsidy period. An eligible employer will be supported by a payment of up to a maximum of €410 per employee per week.
General information on the operation of the Scheme is available from Revenue here and our Employer Alert on recent clarifications by Revenue in relation to the operation of the Scheme is available here.
COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was available from 13 March for all employees and self-employed who lost their job on (or after) 13 March due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The operation of this payment has been extended to 10 August. The rate of the payment was €350 per week. It was announced on 5 June that from 29 June a two level payment structure will operate, linking the payment to an employee’s prior earnings.
- Employees whose prior earnings were €200 per week or higher will receive €350 per week; and
- Employees whose prior earnings were up to €199.99 per week will receive €203 per week – the primary rate of payment of the Jobseeker’s Benefit scheme.
More information on the payment, and how to qualify for it, is available on DEASP’s website here .
Our team is regularly updating its COVID-19: Practical Considerations: Employment FAQ which is available here.