by Julie Austin, Partner in Data Privacy and Employment Law teams at Fieldfisher.
The emergency suspension of an employee’s right to claim redundancy following a period of lay-off or short time has been extended until the end of November 2020.
Right to claim redundancy following lay-off / short time
Normally, if an employee is placed on temporary lay-off or short time they can claim redundancy from their employer after 4 weeks (or 6 weeks within a period of 13 weeks).
A lay-off situation arises if an employer is unable to provide work to an employee. Similarly, an employee may be placed on short-time if their weekly working hours or pay is less than half their normal weekly working hours or pay. In both situations, the employer must believe that the measure will be temporary and provide advance notice to the employees.
Under the Redundancy Payments Act, 1967 – 2014, an employee who has been on lay-off or short time for the qualifying period may give notice to their employer of their intention to claim redundancy. If their employer does not reasonably expect that the employee will be back to work or their normal working hours for at least 13 weeks within a period of 4 weeks from the date of the employee’s notice, the employee may be entitled to a redundancy payment.
How has this changed during Covid-19?
However, the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act, 2020 (“the Act”) has suspended the right to claim redundancy where the lay-off or short time is due to Covid-19.
This temporary measure was first introduced on 13 March and was subsequently extended on a number of occasions. It was expected to lapse on 17 September but the Government has announced a further extension until 30 November.
The aim of the measure is to mitigate against further debt for employers who would otherwise face paying out redundancy payments. The extension is good news for employers and it means that organisations will not be faced with claims for statutory redundancy payments (for now).
Does this affect an employer’s right to make redundancies?
No, there is no legal prohibition on redundancies during the pandemic.
The Act does not affect an employer’s right to implement redundancies in the normal way. If an employer has considered alternative measures and still anticipates redundancies they should follow the redundancy process in the normal way.