Government urges employers to pay ‘full wages’ to assist response

Donohoe says plea is supported by ‘very significant’ public funds to tackle coronavirus crisis

Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Heather Humphreys ask employers to continue to pay workers full wages, while supported by "very significant" public funds to tackle coronavirus crisis.

 

The Government is asking employers to continue to pay workers full wages if they have to stay at home from work due to the coronavirus.

Minster for Finance Paschal Donohoe said: “We recognise that for many workers within our country, taking this decision is one that does have financial consequences and we want to ensure that measures are in place that minimize financial concerns as employees and as employers make decisions in relation to their own health.”

He said the Government had already announced significant changes to sick pay and Minister for Jobs Heather Humphreys also said employers could make up the difference between the State sick pay and an employee’s full pay.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the the personal rate of Illness Benefit will increase from €203 to €305 per week for up to two weeks if some are medically required to self-isolate, or for the duration of medically-certified absence from work with a Covid-19 diagnosis. This payment kicks in from the first day of absence due to illness.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Donohoe said: “We are joining with employers and with unions today in calling on all employers who do have employees who make the decision that they do need to go into a period of isolation to continue to pay them as normal.

“We recognise for some employers this may well be a challenge but the Government on Monday made a very significant decision in relation to the release and use of the money of the taxpayer. We did this for public health reasons.”

Mr Donohoe reiterated the public health advice was against closing schools, or further scaling back economic and social activity, at this point.

“As a parent and as a member of Government I want to confirm two things - no such decision re school closures has been made. This will be reviewed very regularly because we could well get to a phase in handling and trying to protect our country from the spread of this virus, that this is the right thing to do. But we’re not there now.”

He said Minister for Education Joe McHugh was planning to meet meet all involved in the sector, including representative bodies “so everybody is aware what is happening, and if we do get to a decision that we are advised that this necessary on public health grounds, we will do two things for the country at that point”.

Mr Donohoe was asked on RTÉ’s News at One what advice he would give to schools which had booked trips for pupils to Italy in April after the travel advisory ran out. Schools have expressed concern that they would not be able to reclaim losses from cancelling unless the travel ban is extended into the relevant period.

Mr Donohoe said: “The Department of Foreign Affairs will continue to keep its review for particular countries such as Italy under review, if the guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs is that non essential travel should not happen or indeed no travel at all, then schools need to recognise that and make a decision based on that information.

“What I am increasingly conscious of, and I am getting feedback on this, is some of the insurance consequences of this, what this might mean for individual schools, I’ll certainly raise this and see if there’s any way of recognising this via our insurance companies.”