Making Cents: Navigating the new employment subsidies

Making Cents: Navigating the new employment subsidies
Caroline McEnery, Managing Director of The HR Suite and HR & Employment Law Expert.

With the Covid-19 restrictions having a seismic effect on the Irish economy, the Government has brought in a number of measures to help. For people who remain in work but whose income is being supported by these measures, the arrangements are largely being made between the employer and the State.

This can lead to worry and confusion for workers, so I spoke to HR and employment law expert Caroline McEnery, managing director of The HR Suite, about the key points of the various support options.

“The options available to an employer are to put the employee on short-time, which is reduced hours of three days or less, or put them on lay-off, which pauses their contract of employment,” Ms McEnery explains. “If you are placed on lay-off, you can apply for short-time work support to help compensate your loss.

“When an employee has been placed on lay-off, the employer can put the employee on the Covid-19 emergency payment, which is a flat rate of €350, or can put the employee on the wage subsidy scheme. If the employee is on lay-off, that means they are not working, while on the wage subsidy scheme the employee needs to be available for work. The payment of the wage subsidy scheme is done via the payroll of the employer. The employer gets a subsidy of up to 70% of the employee’s wages up to a maximum of €410 (depending on what the employee earns). The employer is encouraged to top-up this subsidy with the employee’s full wages, where practical.”

She suggests that, depending on the scheme you are put on, employees should be asking their employers:

  • How does this affect their tax now or at year-end?
  • How is their payment being calculated?
  • Why might my pay be different, despite receiving my full salary?

“Most employers will have proactively communicated, and some information for example tax etc may be difficult to definitively answer — however, good communication between employer and employee will mean both parties are well informed during this uncertain time,” she said.

Is there somewhere for employees can go for assistance or advice if they feel their employer is not handling the current situation as they should?

“It is important to understand this is an uncertain and upsetting experience for employers as they navigate uncharted waters,” she says. “My experience is that employers are very proactive in terms of how they are handling the situation, both procedurally and empathetically. Patience and understanding is required of both parties If this is not resolved satisfactory, then you should formally write to your employer to outline your grievance and invoke the grievance procedure.”

Given that the current situation is tricky even for large companies with dedicated HR departments, it must be even more so for small businesses. I asked Ms McEnery if there is somewhere for these small employers to get advice and assistance?

“It is, without doubt, a very difficult position for business owners and small businesses in particular,” she says. “There is a lot of support available to small businesses via the Local Enterprise Office, industry bodies eg. Fáilte Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. We at the HR Suite have been inundated with requests for help and guidance. We have also been providing lots of webinars, newsletters, and industry-specific advice to help guide and direct employers in relation to their specific queries.”

The Revenue website and Gov.ie are also useful, and Ms McEnery
believes it is crucial that people get accurate up-to-date information.

“It is also really important to ensure we are proactively communicating with our employees at this time and are ensuring we keep a positive connection with employees,” she adds. “Where a small business does not have an external HR support or an employment law solicitor to advise them at present, then they should seek to get guidance from any of the relevant Government bodies such as Revenue on how to navigate these payments with employees.”

DEAL OF THE WEEK

While we are all focussed on the Covid-19 crisis, the climate crisis is still a real and pressing issue. Reducing waste is one of the ways we are all being asked to help, including the waste from toiletries.

If you are like me, it could be one of those areas where you would like to help but don’t really know where to start. I am open to the idea of using shampoo and conditioner bars but inevitably end up chucking the usual bottles in my trolley during the supermarket run.

Aldi are giving us a chance to try these products out this week. The Specialbuy range on Thursday is focused on being eco-friendly and includes a Eco Starter Pack of toiletries for €7.99.

Each tin includes a Shampoo Bar, a Conditioner Bar and a Body Bar. and the retailer promises all are made from natural oils, butters, and vitamins to benefit your body and hair. A low-cost way to give something new a try.

For those using the extra time at home to do some spring cleaning, the range also includes a wide array of eco-friendly cleaning products. All on sale in 142 Aldi stores nationwide from Thursday, April 16 while stocks last.

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