— Sinead O’Regan, Information Officer with South Munster Citizens Information Service discusses some common employment queries —
Currently various services are opening up more to the public. Any change in the situation in relation to local Citizens Information offices?
While we are still providing our service mainly by phone and email, we also see people by appointment in some offices, which have been kitted out with PPE. We usually arrange appointments in situations where we are unable to help over the phone. Best thing is to ring us and we will talk through the query and the best way of responding. Some issues are best dealt with face-to-face and if that is the case we will arrange an appointment for you
It’s that time of year where people are planning holidays. Many people were temporarily out of work during lockdown. Will this affect their annual leave entitlement?
Yes, it would. The period of time that the employee would be out of work does affect the accrual of annual leave. Any lay off does, not only during the pandemic. You only really accrue annual leave if you are actually working (or are on maternity leave for example).
So let’s say somebody was laid off for 6 months in 2020 – this person only has half of the normal annual leave entitlement for the year. If they usually had 4 weeks of holidays, they will now only have 2 weeks
Is it the same in relation to public holiday entitlement? Did people just lose their public holiday days that fell during lockdown as well?
No, the situation is different with the entitlement for public holidays. During absence such as lay off, an employee is entitled to the public holidays that fall during the first 13 weeks of a lay off. So for example if you were laid off from the beginning of January this year until end of May, you would have been entitled to two public holidays, 1st January (New Year’s Day) and 17th March (St Patrick’s Day). You would not have had any entitlement to Easter Monday or May Bank Holiday.
One more question in relation to annual leave: do you accrue it if you are out sick.
The short answer is: yes, you do, when you are on a certified sick leave. A very simplistic answer is that you accrue it for 15 months of your illness. However, I would suggest to contact us and discuss this matter if the sick leave is prolonged and if it spans over more than one annual leave year (which is 1st April -31st March).
Could it be correct that someone received a pay slip for June and the payment for the June bank holiday is missing?
It could, but it all depends on the circumstances of this person. If the person is in full time employment, they are entitled to the payment. If they were in part time employment, they would have to work 40 hours in the five weeks before the bank holiday. If someone has a query regarding their bank holiday entitlements I would recommend they contact our centre and staff can explore this with them.
Many people return back to work now for the first time this year. Is there anything in relation to their taxes that they need to be aware?
There is. At the start of 2021, Revenue by default made an assumption that everybody who is claiming Covid payment from social welfare would remain on Covid payment for the whole year. Thankfully, it is not the case for many. When a person stops the Covid payment and returns to work, the employer gives this information to Revenue and then Revenue automatically send an amended tax credits certificate to both employer and employee. This would allow people to be taxed correctly. However, it is a good idea to keep an eye if there is nothing unusual on our pay slips. If people think there is – just contact us and we will have a look together and advise on the next steps.
Unfortunately, Ireland may expect redundancies coming up in the near future. Does Covid affect it in any way?
Yes, it does. For example, if people were laid off and claiming Covid, the time spent on lay off does not break the continuity of service, but will affect the redundancy lump sum…. Again, our staff are all trained in this topic and can help with the redundancy calculation if you contact our service.
It was always the case that if the employee was laid off temporarily, he or she had a choice to opt for a redundancy payment and look for something else. Is this still the case?
The law of claiming redundancy is suspended for this emergency period until the end of September 2021. So no employee can request a redundancy payment from their employer if they were laid off or put on a short term working hours. Not until the end of September.
Did the minimum wage change this year?
It did in January. It is 10.2 per hour for an experienced adult worker (which really means for a person over 20 years old). It is lower for those under 20.
The lowest rate of pay is 7.14 and it is for under 18 years old. There probably will be many young people looking for employment for the summer months, so they should remember that this is the least they need to be paid per hour.
This year a lot of young people started work for the first time. Are there any other issues that young people starting employment should bear in mind?
Yes, there are. For example, the working week is different. Children aged 14 or over may do light work during the school holidays where the hours do not exceed 7 in any day or 35 in any week. Children aged 15 may do 8 hours a week light work in school term time. The maximum working week for children aged 15 outside school term time is 35 hours, or up to 40 hours if they are on approved work experience. The maximum working week for young people aged 16 and 17 is 40 hours, with a maximum of 8 hours a day.
The hours of work are also restricted. In general, young people aged 16 and 17 are not allowed to work before 6am in the morning or after 10pm at night. Employers may not require children aged 14 and 15 to work before 8am in the morning or after 8pm at night.
Many hospitality places are reopening thankfully. Workers in this sector may have queries in relation to tips. Is there a law on how to deal with tips?
If you are working in a workplace where staff are given tips and gratuities by customers (such as a restaurant, bar, etc.) there is nothing in law to state you are automatically entitled to these tips. However, the law does not require you to hand these tips to your employer either. Instead, it all depends on the custom and practice in your workplace. If all tips are collected by management and paid to staff through the payroll, then these tips are subject to tax in the normal way.
Are employees entitled to sick pay from the employer?
Not at present. Payment for sick leave is regulated by employment contract and employers have no legal obligation to pay for sick days. However, the changes are coming. The government announced their commitment to introduce a statutory sick pay in a phased basis, staring from 3 days paid sick leave in 2022. But if requires legislation to pass. So at the moment if you out sick you are not necessarily entitled to be paid (unless it is guaranteed in your contract).
And a very topical question: is there an entitlement to take paid time off to attend a vaccination clinic?
No, not by law. The government is encouraging the employers to facilitate the appointments and grant paid leave to attend them, and many do, but it is not a legal requirement to get that leave paid.
Sometimes problems arise and employees may feel badly treated. What redress is there for people in that situation?
Unfortunately, that happens sometimes and it can be very stressful for people as work is such a big part of our lives. If people have employment problems, they can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). However, there are very strict timelines re making a complaint. It would be important that someone contacts us if they have a problem at work. As part of our advocacy service we assist people to take cases to the WRC and can also represent them at the hearings
The whole area of employment rights is quite complex. If someone would like more information about the issues raised here what should they do?
Yes, you’re right, employment rights are complicated. If anybody needs more information they should give us a ring. You can also check our website citizensinformation.ie. However often it is best to ring and talk with one of our Information Officers. They will go through your exact situation and guide you in the right direction. The service is free and confidential. We are here to help you navigate your way through the information.
For anyone needing information, advice or if you have an advocacy issue, you can call a member of the local Citizens Information team in Fermoy on 0761 07 7970, they will be happy to assist and make an appointment if necessary. The offices are staffed on Monday and Tuesday from 9am to 5pm and on Wednesday and Thursday to Friday from 9am to 1pm. Their email is email@example.com.
Alternatively, you can contact Mallow CIC on 0761 07 8000. Staff are available to take your calls from 9am to 5pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday’s as well as from 9am to 12.30pm on Tuesday’s. You can email your query to firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie for further information and contact details.