On 4 August 2020, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection announced that it has secured government approval to further extend the suspension of redundancy provisions relating to temporary lay-off and short-time work, which arose as a result of COVID-19. In addition, it was confirmed that the COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit Scheme, which was due to cease after 10 August, will be extended until 31 March 2021. The Scheme applies to individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or advised to self-isolate due to being a probable source of infection.
Extending the suspension of redundancy
The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 suspends provisions on short-time and lay-off, which provide an employee with the right to serve notice of entitlement to a redundancy payment. This suspension took effect on 13 March 2020 and was expected to last until 10 August 2020. As a result of the recent announcement, it appears this will be further extended until 17 September 2020.
However, concerns have been raised regarding the impact the further suspension could have on the rights of employees to apply for redundancy while also availing of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (“PUP”). Employees are eligible to avail of the PUP if they have been temporarily laid off or have lost their job due to COVID-19, however, they must also genuinely seek alternative employment to continue to avail of PUP. This has raised questions regarding the ability of employees to claim redundancy if they take up new employment as required under the PUP.
While these changes will be welcomed by many businesses that have had to lay-off staff due to COVID-19, the decision to further extend the suspension heightens the uncertainty surrounding redundancy rights in the future, particularly where employees take up new employment during the suspension period.
We will keep you up to date with any further changes regarding the within measures as and when they arise.