On Monday 8 June, Ireland moves from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business (Roadmap). Last week the Government revised its Roadmap, reducing the number of intended phases to four – Phase 3 is intended to commence on 29 June and Phase 4 on 20 July. Changes to the COVID-19 income supports were also announced last week.
Employers should review the measures introduced under Phase 2 in light of the National Return to Work Safely Protocol (Protocol) which sets out mandatory actions that employers and employees must take to return to work safely and reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces. See here for our briefing on the Protocol. For further information, see here for our briefing on key issues faced by employers when returning to the workplace.
COVID-19 Income Supports Extended
The Government has extended the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (the TWSS) until the end of August 2020. For more detailed information on the operation of the TWSS, please see our article here.
The Government has also extended the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (the PUP) until at least 10 August 2020.
A number of other measures have also been extended until 10 August 2020, including:
- waiver of the waiting period for jobseekers’ payments and the increased rate of payment for Qualified Adults for jobseeker claims;
- waiver of the waiting period and continuance of the enhanced payment for the COVID-19 Illness Benefit; and
- suspension of employees’ right to claim redundancy during lay-off. This suspension was initially set to last until 31 May 2020. For more on this topic, please see our article here.
Pandemic Unemployment Payment to be reduced for Part-time Workers
From Phase 3 of the Roadmap starting on 29 June 2020, the structure of the PUP will change to a two-level payment structure. Significantly, the PUP will be linked to the wages that a recipient was paid before they lost their job due to COVID-19 so that:
- for those whose prior employment earnings were €200 per week or more, the PUP rate will remain at €350 per week;
- for those whose prior employment earnings were up to €199.99 per week, the PUP rate will reduce to €203 per week – the same level as the Jobseeker’s Benefit scheme generally.
Employees on maternity/adoptive leave during January/February 2020 to be eligible for TWSS
To address an anomaly whereby employees on maternity/adoptive leave in January or February 2020 were outside the eligibility threshold to avail of the TWSS, the TWSS will be amended to allow such employees who are now seeking to return to work access to the income support. This provision will be implemented retrospectively to 26 March 2020 for employees who were retained on their employer’s payroll during January and February. Subsidy payments will not be applied retrospectively for employees who were not on their employer’s payroll at that time. This latter category of employees may be eligible for the TWSS if they are rehired and placed on their employer’s payroll.
Revenue has advised that this change should be operational from 12 June 2020.
Easing of domestic travel restrictions
Phase 2 of the Government’s Roadmap has also been amended to widen the originally envisaged 20 kilometre travel radius (from 5 kilometre radius). Now under Phase 2, the travel limit is extended to allow individuals travel anywhere within their own county, or up to 20 kilometres from their residence with may include travel into a neighbouring county.
The Government’s advice is still to avoid unnecessary travel and to stay local. It is hoped that domestic travel restrictions will be lifted entirely on 29 June 2020 if the country enters Phase 3 of the Roadmap at that time.
Retail Businesses to Reopen
Nearly all retail businesses are permitted to reopen from 8 June, subject to shops adhering to the health and safety requirements set out in the Protocol. These requirements include increased cleaning and hygiene standards, social distancing, and the wearing of face coverings where social distancing of 2 metres cannot be ensured.
Shopping centres may reopen from 15 June provided shops only open and shoppers are not permitted to loiter in the centres.
Further Guidance to be Provided for the Hospitality Industry
The Government hopes that the tourism sector and parts of the hospitality sector may reopen on 29 June 2020 with the planned entry into Phase 3 of the Roadmap.
Further government guidance is being specifically prepared for these sectors, with measures such as a potential reduction of social distancing from 2 metres to 1 metre being discussed.
Useful Links and Other Resources
The National Return to Work Safely Protocol can be accessed here.
We will continue to keep you updated on developments through our dedicated COVID-19 Hub.
If you have any specific queries in relation to COVID-19, please get in touch with your regular William Fry contact.