COVID-19 and Your Rights as a Worker

Respect workersFrequently Asked Questions

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency is evolving rapidly and Unite will be updating our advice as dictated by circumstances.  Below are some of the most frequently asked questions. 

What if I fall sick and/or need to self-isolate?

If you feel you may have COVID-19, or may need to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19, the first thing you should do is phone your GP and self-isolate in line with HSE adviceDO NOT GO TO YOUR GP IN PERSON.

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, or a GP has certified that you need to self-isolate, you need to inform your employer and adhere to any employment sick pay policy in place.  You then need to apply for Illness Benefit. An enhanced Illness Benefit of €305 per week has been agreed for COVID-19 related cases. To be eligible for this payment you must be confined to your home or a medical facility.  This payment is available from the first day of illness.

In this regard please also note that while not a legal entitlement Government, Unions and Employers have issued the following, strong, joint statement:

“The trade unions and employer representative bodies are now, jointly with the Government, urging all employers to support national public health objectives by continuing to pay workers who cannot attend work due to Covid-19 illness or certified self-isolation, the difference between the special Illness Benefit rate and their normal wages.”  

What if I have no symptoms but my employer has told me to work from home?

If you are working from home at your employer’s instruction, your employer must pay you your usual wage.  Confirm with your employer that this is the case before agreeing to work from home.

What if I want to work from home during this period?

Many people may want to work from home in order to mind children during the period of school closure or for other health, personal or family reasons. You should approach the company and request to be facilitated in that regard.  It is at your employer’s discretion whether or not to grant that request but they should be cognisant of public health and Government advice.

What if I have been placed on lay off or short-time working?

In these circumstances, there is no requirement to pay the employees during the lay-off period or period of short-time working unless otherwise stated in your contract of employment. You will be entitled to whatever Social Welfare payments you qualify for, including Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance depending on the level of your PRSI contributions, number of dependents etc. Contact your local Department of Social Protection office.

What if my employer instructs me to go home?

You are entitled to clarity regarding your work situation, and in particular regarding whether you are to be paid, or are being laid off, made redundant or expected to work from home. If unclear on any of these or related questions, contact your employer in writing (e.g. by email) and ask them to confirm your employment and payment status in writing.  In the event that your employer says that you will not be paid the Department of Social Protection will require written confirmation of your status if you are applying for a Social Protection payment.

A simple email detailing when, where and by who you were told to go home and asking that your status be confirmed to you in writing without delay will assist you to explain your circumstances to the Department of Social Protection.


This pandemic creates an unprecedented situation for you, your union, your employer, your family, and every person and Department in the state. Unite appeals to all members to follow the Public Health guidelines being given. In addition we would ask that members desist from panic buying or other behaviours that will acerbate the emergency and do their utmost to prevent contagion, particularly to those most vulnerable and with underlying health issues that put them particularly at risk.

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3 Responses to COVID-19 and Your Rights as a Worker

  1. Jim says:

    Zero-Hours Contracts?

  2. Pingback: COVID-19 – School Closures Information – Unite ELT

  3. Jackie Thomson says:

    What if the school closes but the employer does not pay the teachers?

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