COVID 19- Your Questions Answered by Sellors Solicitors

Your Questions Answered by Sellors Solicitors

These are exceptional times that we live in. With the escalating and ever-changing threat the Covid 19 Pandemic poses to our social and economic structure, we as a society are facing unprecedented challenges and decisions. Below are examples of Questions that have been put to Sellors Solicitors.

1. I’m an Employee, can my employer tell me not to come to work, even if we it is an essential service?

Advice: Yes they can. In some cases, they may ask you to work from home, which they can do to protect the safety of the workplace as a whole. Otherwise, if they are no longer paying you this is considered a “Lay Off”.

If you are laid off, your employer owes you any wages that you have earned but that have not been paid.

2. If I am laid off temporarily will I get paid?

Advice: Workers who are laid off temporarily, without pay from their employer, due to a reduction in business activity, they can apply for a Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Further information is available at:  

https://www.gov.ie/en/service/be74d3-covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment/

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is paid at a flat rate of €350 per week for the duration of the pandemic emergency.

3. As a self-employed person, what benefits am I entitled to during the Covid 19 crisis and how do I apply for them?

Advice: If you are self-employed but no longer earning as a result of the crisis you may also access the emergency COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. You may, if your trading income has collapsed to the extent that you are available to take up other full-time employment if it was offered to you, receive a payment of €350 per week for so long as you are available to take up other work. Further information is available at:-

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/68c144-what-to-do-if-you-are-self-employed-covid-19/

4. Can I refuse to work during the Pandemic?

Advice: There are certain circumstances where this is a definite yes. For example if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are medically certified to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19. There may be risk factors which justify an employee’s decision to self-isolate. In these circumstances you can apply for  ‘Ilness benefit for Covid 19’,  details of which are here:

https://www.gov.ie/en/service/df55ae-how-to-apply-for-illness-benefit-for-covid-19-absences/

Otherwise, if an employee is reluctant to attend work, to use public transport, to work with colleagues and so on, options such as working from home or availing of some type of leave (e.g. annual leave, paternity leave, unpaid leave) may be agreed with the employer.

If this is not possible and an employee is expected to be at work, and they refuse to attend, they may be considered to be on unauthorised and unpaid absence. It can also be a disciplinary matter. This is particularly relevant where employees are needed in their workplaces to keep key services and functions operating in transport, retail, medical and other frontline sectors.

5. As an employer in the hospitality sector my business is now closed. I hope that this will be a temporary closure. For how long can I lay off staff?

Advice: A temporary layoff is a specific type of layoff where employers do not have to pay severance. The Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been put in place for a minimum of a 12 weeks with the intention of giving employees a secure income for this time.

If a lay-off or a short-time situation exists and has continued for 4 weeks or more, or for 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks, an employee is entitled to serve a notice on an employer in writing of his or her intention to claim redundancy under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2014. There are certain qualifying criteria, for example, having at least 2 year’s continuous service. The notice must be given at the latest within 4 weeks after the lay-off or short-time has ended.

Within 7 days of the employee’s notice, the employer can give counter notice contesting liability to pay a redundancy payment. This applies if it is reasonably to be expected that within 4 weeks of the employee’s notice the employee will be permitted to work for at least 13 weeks without being laid off or placed on short-time for any week. Again, given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 virus and the risk as expressed in some scientific circles that it may hit in further waves, it may be difficult for employers to give this assurance to employees.

If an employee does not wish to claim redundancy but the lay-off or short-time situation continues, the question arises as to whether it is a temporary situation. If it becomes apparent that it is no longer temporary then the situation is now a redundancy rather than a lay-off or short-time working.

6. I cannot pay my employees their full wages during this temporary lay off period but will try to pay something to everyone. How and what support is available to me as an employer in this situation?

The Government has established a temporary refund scheme for employers forced to cease or reduce trading as a result of social distancing measures to help delay the spread of COVID-19. Employers will be refunded up to 70 percent of an employee’s wages – up to a level of €410.

Revenue will contact employers directly to confirm that they meet the conditions for this new scheme.

7. I work as a contractor to a large multinational. I have been advised that my services are no longer required during the quarantine phase of Covid 19 pandemic. Is my service contract covered by the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2014.

Advice: Contractors are not, by their nature, employees in the eyes of the law. The terms of your engagement will be set out in your contract for services therefore the first step is to review your terms of engagement (if any).  If you are no longer providing services then, subject to any specific terms in their contract existing in the alternative (for example a retainer), it would follow that you are not entitled to charge for those services. As a self employed person however you may be entitled to access the emergency COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

8. I run an essential business and my employees need time off work because of lack of childcare

Advice: This is a common challenge facing employers. Where employees can carry out some (or perhaps all) of their duties from home, they should be paid accordingly. Employers should consider reducing working hours and changing working times to assist employees in managing work and increased childcare responsibilities. Family leave options (paternity leave, parental leave, parents leave or perhaps force majeure leave) as well as annual leave may be solutions, at least in the short term. Employers are being urged by the government to continue paying employees where possible, with the benefit of the state support. Consistency is key to avoid setting unmanageable precedents and as the situation is so uncertain, employees should be informed that all measures are temporary and cannot be maintained indefinitely.

9. As a 76-year-old living with an underlying respiratory condition I am very worried that I have not already made a will but am too scared to go out and make an appointment with my solicitor. What should I do?

Advice: While law firms may take a different approach, at Sellors Solicitors Will instructions can be given via an on-line meeting using Microsoft Teams, Zoom or over the phone to a Solicitor. Thereafter a Will is drafted and sent by email for review. At Sellors once the Will is approved, we can meet the clients ensuring the correct protocols for social distancing and sanitisation are followed. Alternatively, we can advise the client on what is required to ensure the Will is validly executed and witnessed without the requirement to meet with us.

Those seeking to make a new Will or indeed amend their existing Will should consider the following matters in advance:

a. Appoint an executor?

An executor is appointed to prove the Will of the deceased and thereafter administer the deceased’s estate in accordance with the Will. An executor can also be a beneficiary in the Will.

b. Do you have children under the age of 18 years old?

A Guardian is appointed to look after the day-to-day needs of any children under the age of 18 or who may not be able to mind oneself.

c. Does one need to appoint Trustees?

Trustees are appointed where there are beneficiaries unable to take their inheritance due to age and/or a disability. The Trustees will maintain those assets left behind for the benefit of the beneficiaries and under law are required to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

  • My business has a number of Contracts with very onerous liquidated damages clauses. Due to the imminent closure of our business we are at risk of defaulting on these Contracts which would trigger the payment of liquidated damages. What can I do to prevent these clauses from coming into force?

Advice: The circumstances being experienced by all businesses are difficult.  In the first instance you should contact the other party and notify them that you expect that in the current circumstances that you may default on delivery of obligations and agree an extension of time for delivery of contractual obligations.  The variation to the contract term should be recorded in writing, this can be done through email.  A liquidated damages clause is not intended to act as a penalty but rather to put the employer back in the position they should have been in.  You should check the contract as there may be a provision covering delay in unexpected circumstances.  Liquidated Damages clauses are not always enforceable so if you cannot reach agreement with the employer you should ask your solicitor to review the clause with you to determine whether you may be able to challenge the enforceability of the clause.

  • I am concerned that I will not be able to make my mortgage repayments over the coming months. What steps can I take to deal with these concerns?

Advice: Whether you’re a business banking customer or an individual repaying a mortgage, the spread of Covid-19 will likely raise some issues. Lenders, however, appear to be adopting a relatively flexible approach to the crisis and in most cases they are offering 3 month moratorium. Therefore the first step is to contact your mortgage provider immediately to discuss your options.

It is understood that as long as the lender in question agrees to allow a payment moratorium, an individual’s credit rating won’t be affected. This must, however, be agreed with the lender in advance and there is no standard template. The bank will charge interest for the unpaid amount, your repayments for the remainder of your mortgage term will increase.

 

For more information contact one of our professional team at:-

Sellors Solicitors

info@sellors.ie

061- 414355

www.sellors.ie

 

 

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