Lay-off occurs where an employer is temporarily unable to provide an employee with the work for which they were employed. Short-time occurs where an employee’s hours of work or pay are reduced to less than 50% of normal weekly working hours or normal weekly pay.

In both cases the employer must believe that the situation will not be permanent and must give employees notice to this effect. There is no stipulated minimum period of notice. Exceptional circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are likely to justify a short notice period.

The employer’s belief regarding the temporary nature of the period of lay-off or short-time will be considered with the circumstances prevailing when the decision is made. In other words, the decision will be viewed based on the circumstances at the time of the decision.

A period of lay-off should not be confused with sick leave or a period of self-isolation in accordance with current HSE guidelines. Different guidelines apply and clients should contact us in these scenarios.

Employers should be careful when selecting employees for lay-off or short-time. They should apply objective selection criteria and be careful not to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against employees on any of the nine grounds prohibited by the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015.

Florence Kenefick