The Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) operates for employers to keep employees on the payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining the link with employees for when business resumes.
The employer is expected to make best efforts to maintain employees’ net income as close as possible to normal net income for the duration of the 12-week subsidy period.
The employee relations aspect of the continued link with payroll is an important aspect of the operation of TWSS. Trade unions have generally welcomed TWSS as a support to jobs and income in these challenging times.
The fact of lay-off (a temporary cessation of work) will remain the same whether the employee is in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) or whether the employee is kept on payroll and maintains a level of payment through TWSS, however, related communications will differ.
What needs to be communicated to employees depends on the level of business the employer can sustain and the level of payment which is available to employees. If there is a temporary cessation of work, a form RP9 (Part A) can be used to give an employee notice of lay-off (or short-time), however, notice in writing will also suffice. This notice should include the date of the commencement of the lay-off period, the reason for the lay-off and the fact that the lay-off is expected to be temporary. The length of notice of lay-off is based on what can be considered reasonable in the circumstances.
There is no prescribed form for informing employees of an employer’s intention to avail of TWSS. It is a matter of good HR and GDPR practice that employees are informed of their employer’s intention to avail of the scheme. This communication should include relevant detail of the operation of the scheme in so far as it affects the employees such as the relevant dates (including any delay in payroll/pay day) and what it means for the employees’ pay. For those employees whose pay level will not be affected as a result of their employer availing of TWSS, information on the operation of the scheme will suffice, however, for those employees whose pay is being reduced, specific legal advice may be required as deductions in pay without a contractual basis or other agreement are generally unlawful.
There is no prescribed method for issuing notice of an employer’s decision to avail of TWSS. Accordingly, employers should communicate to all employees through the usual channels. This will be straightforward for some employers who might continue to be able to communicate by email or intranet notices. However, some employers may not have access to their usual methods of communication and will have to consider alternative ways to communicate to all employees. In the absence of intranet, email or notice boards, letters issued by post may be required. Channels of communication with trade unions and employee representatives should also be utilised to ensure changes are widely communicated in an organisation.
The form of communication in times of permanent cessation of work, ie redundancy, is prescribed by law and legal advice should be sought. This is particularly so in circumstances of a collective redundancy whereby the redundancy of a certain number of employees relative to the total number of employees will trigger information and consultation requirements and specific notices are required to be given to employee representatives and the Minster for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
KPMG Legal Services can advise on and prepare the above and any related communications. Please contact Aoife Newton should you or your HR team need assistance in this regard.