Last March 2020, the World Health Organization announced that the widespread Covid-19 across the world has already reached a pandemic level. No one expected this virus to spread like wildfire. No one is exempted as everyone is affected in one way or another.
From that time forward, nonessential employees have been requested to work from home, while essential workers were still asked to report on-site for duty following a new set of protocols. Some employees working for a company that had to shut down due to the pandemic remained uncertain of the situation.
However, there is one aspect that every employee should hold on to despite this challenging time —employee’s rights. Every employee may have an idea that it exists without comprehensive knowledge about the subject. Thus, this article tackles four major issues that employees may encounter during the Covid-19 pandemic. This article serves to inform the public of their rights and to fight for them when the situation fits.
1. If you are anxious about reporting for duty
Working from home applies to employees who are not necessarily needed to be present in the workplace. Essential workers are only allowed to work, and essential services are only allowed to open during this pandemic. The employer’s main responsibility is to figure out which roles in the company have to be physically done. Moreover, the employer must provide safety protocols in the workplace and ensure that these protocols should be followed at all times.
If you have any concerns about working from home or reporting for duty, you should reach out to your employer as soon as you can. However, if you notice that your employer fails to meet their obligations despite addressing your concerns firsthand, you can raise a complaint to the Health and Safety Authority. If your employers happen to dismiss you for not showing up to work due to safety issues, you can file a complaint about unfair dismissal.
You have the right to ensure that you feel safe in your workplace. Thus, if there are certain aspects you are not comfortable with, do not be afraid to speak up and let them know what you think. This way, there is no need to perform any formal or legal action to ensure they work for it.
2. If you noticed your employer has no work or less work for you compared before
If your employer closed their business due to the restrictions brought by the pandemic and asked to send you home, this is what you call “temporary lay-off.” It means you remain an employee, even if you are not paid.
On the other hand, your employer can also assign you to “short-time working” to reduce the total number of hours you used to work. It is either you receive half of your regular compensation, or your working hours are reduced to half of your normal working hours.
If you lost your job and your employer cannot pay you, you are eligible to apply for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. However, if you are under “short-time working,” you can apply for Short Time Work Support, a benefit for short-time workers.
3. If you are asked to undergo quarantine due to being sick
If you are sick and showing signs of Covid-19, you should refrain from going to work. You should contact your employer as soon as possible. Even if you are unsure whether you have the virus or not, the best thing to do is stay at home and quarantine yourself.
If you are confirmed to be sick with Covid-19 after receiving the RT-PCR test result, you may be eligible for your company’s sick pay. This situation depends on the contract you signed between you and your employer. If it is included in your contract, then you can still be paid despite your absence.
If it is not included in your contract, you can apply for a Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit. You can ask for further details about this from your local government unit.
4. If you have to take care of others
If you cannot go to work and are not sick because you need to look after your sick child or relative, you can ask for a paid compassionate leave from your employer. If your employer cannot grant you with such, you can ask for a statutory leave. Statutory refers to the leave that is provided by law. For example, you have the right to ask for parental leave.
Paid compassionate leave during the pandemic is more flexible, and it caters to assist the employees in the following ways:
- Paid during the leave
- Allow work from home setup
- Modify shifts to ensure you can take care of your loved ones
- Allow rearranging holidays
- Allow paid time off that can be recovered once you have officially returned to regular work schedule
In these most uncertain times, the best thing to do is keep oneself updated and engaged with the latest employment news during the Covid-19 pandemic. Every single day, there are relevant changes as the situation varies. When the cases increase in a particular area, there are usually newly added protocols, yet these four concerns remain the same. Always remember that you owe it to yourself to be knowledgeable of your rights as an employee. This pandemic has challenged everyone in ways we never imagined, but it is never the right time to get undermined by your employer. Ask plenty of questions. Research and read the news. Speak up. Protect your job by knowing your rights. If you need legal guidance for your rights, consult with O’Brien Murphy Solicitors to ensure that you understand and receive the rights you deserve.