Due to our close involvement with SMEs across various sectors, we have been hearing first-hand of the devastating impact that COVID-19 is having on businesses nationwide. Many emergency measures have already been put in place. But sadly, it is still possible that many people will lose their jobs.
Financial support for businesses
We were pleased to hear that the government is stepping up its rescue response to help struggling businesses and keep people employed. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “these are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency.”
Financial aid has been increased, and below is what we know so far about the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme:
- The scheme is accessible to employers from all sectors (excluding public service and non-commercial semi-state sector) who are experiencing significant negative economic disruption due to COVID-19 and can show at least a 25% loss of trade.
- The scheme will subsidise 70% of an employee’s net wage, up to a maximum of 410 euros a week. It is applicable to those employees who were on the employer’s payroll as of 29 February 2020, and for whom a payroll submission has already been made to the Revenue in the period 1 February – 15 March.
- These employees must remain on the employer’s payroll to be eligible for the scheme.
- Whilst the 70% wage subsidy provides some support to those who need it, the government encourages employers to top-up employees’ wages to maintain 100% of their earnings.
- The scheme will run for an initial 12 weeks from 26 March 2020.
- This new wage subsidy scheme replaces the previous COVID-19 Refund Scheme. Those employers who already registered with the previous scheme will not need to re-register. Those who were not already registered can do so by applying to the Revenue via ROS myEnquiries.
Advice on taking necessary steps
Whilst this support is significant, we understand that it may not be enough to keep everyone employed. Redundancies and lay-offs can be difficult but are sometimes necessary for a business to survive.
The process of letting staff go, even for a temporary period, is complicated. And the added pressure of the coronavirus pandemic can make this even more strenuous. Our HR Dept professionals are here to offer their expertise and guide employers compliantly through the process.
Enforced closures and social distancing
To further slow the spread of coronavirus, the government has closed all cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants, although these businesses can continue to provide a take away service. Sporting events (even those behind closed doors) have been cancelled and further closures include, but are not limited to, nightclubs, theatres, bingo halls, gyms and non-essential retail.
Businesses that are permitted to remain open must maintain the health and well-being of employees by enforcing strict hygiene regulations and physical distancing.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged people to work from home “unless attendance at workplace is absolutely essential.” Remote working can help a business to survive through these restrictions. Ask us if you have questions about setting up employees to work from home.
Employers of factories and construction sites, who are unable to facilitate home working, are advised to speak to local authorities to find out if and how their business can continue to operate whilst maintaining rules on physical distancing.
All outdoor gatherings are now limited to a maximum of four people, except when families are concerned, and physical distance from others must be maintained.
Gardai intervention will increase if necessary, to ensure that the new rules are respected.
HR support to see you through
We know that this is a difficult and trying time for everyone and that you may have many questions about managing your people through the crisis. We are here to provide expert HR support to employers seeking advice. Please contact us to discuss our service and how we might help you through to the other side.