There is currently no statutory entitlement in Ireland to pay if an employee is absent from work.  The exception is when an employee is absent for more than 6 days due to illness or injury. They can then apply for Illness Benefit from the State.  This may disincentivise employees from notifying their employers if they are experiencing any symptoms associated with Coronavirus. This poses a serious health and safety risk even though employees have a duty to take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of themselves and of other people in the workplace.

On 5 March, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, suggested in the Dáil that the Government may have to legislate to ensure employees’ rights are maintained if workers are asked to self-isolate to deal with Coronavirus. He said they “may need to enhance legislation around employment and social protections so that people are not disincentivised to self-isolate if they are asked to do so”.

On Friday 6 March, Government officials are examining the possibility of making financial assistance available to private and public sector employees affected by the Coronavirus. Current proposals include:

  • a special payment at the level of Job Seekers' Benefit proposed to be put in place for a two-week period for private sector workers; and
  • special leave with pay (covering basic pay and fixed allowances) for public sector employees if they have to self-isolate in line with medical/HSE advice and where flexible working arrangements are not possible.

We will continue to keep you updated. For further guidance on how employers should prepare and respond to Coronavirus in Ireland click here