Intel unpaid leave offer unusual in private sector

Much more common to place workers on reduced hours or to have a temporary lay-off

The news that Intel is seeking to make cost savings at its Leixlip plant through an offer of three months of unpaid leave has surprised some observers.

The availability of unpaid leave is not uncommon in many areas of the public sector but it is generally regarded as a benefit, available to individual staff members who can, in certain circumstances, take breaks at times of their own choosing to care for family members, return to study or pursue other interests for a period.

Receiving an unexpected offer of a three-month spell away from work, but also your income, might appeal to some, but taking such a break on a voluntary basis will clearly be out of the question for many with young families to feed and mortgages to pay.

The fact that the timing will not be great for many of its employees will surely not be lost on decision-makers at the company. The significant drops in sales being experienced by manufacturers of electronic devices, particularly consumer goods such as PCs and mobile phones, is a key reason that Intel finds itself in this position to start with.


Private sector firms far more commonly put workers on reduced working hours or lay them off temporarily, a move that qualifies the employees for social welfare payments.

Labour Party Senator Marie Sherlock says the move will send a “chill across many workplaces”, while Siptu’s manufacturing division organiser, Greg Ennis, whose members include workers at other prominent tech sector firms including Apple, but not Intel, describes the company’s move as “despicable”.

Not everyone on the left is quite so critical, though, with Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy – whose North Kildare constituency takes in the plant – acknowledging Intel’s reputation in the area as a good employer which, she believes, remains committed to the area for the long-term.

She admits, however, that constituents working for the company with families and bigger-than-ever bills to pay will be “very worried” about what might happen if the chipmaker does not hit whatever targets it has set for the three months of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, those in the public sector might feel quietly grateful that their employers don’t report by the quarter.