Unprecedented national effort required to respond to Covid-19 – say Govt, trade unions & employers in Joint Statement

11th March, 2020

Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure & Reform Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys have joined trade unions and employers to state that an unprecedented shared national effort will be required to respond to the global and national public health crisis arising from Covid-19.

The Government will work closely with all stakeholders across society as we respond to the crisis.

In particular, it is important that employees and the self-employed abide by public health advice to self-isolate where appropriate, while having their income protected to the greatest extent possible.  

This is essential to limit and slow down the spread of the virus, to keep the number of affected people to a minimum, and reduce peak pressure on the health service.

Following consultation with trade unions and employer representatives (the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Ibec, the Construction Industry Federation, Chambers Ireland and ISME) the Government has therefore agreed to introduce a series of measures to enhance State illness payments for people affected by Covid-19.

These measures will have a significant cost to the Exchequer but are being taken in recognition of overriding public health imperative facing the country at this time.

The Government, trade unions and employer bodies also recognise that some employers will face severe business and cashflow pressures in the period ahead. A number of liquidity measures to assist affected businesses have also been announced by the Government, and the Government will continue to work with stakeholders, including businesses, to mitigate the adverse economic impact in the period ahead.

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.  

They accept that there will be some companies for whom this is not possible given their financial situation in the crisis, but would urge that as far as possible employers should contribute alongside the Government’s enhanced support, to help meet public health objectives.

The Government, trade unions and employer groups are committed to showing flexibility and a co-operative approach in managing the inevitable disruption which will arise in these difficult and exceptional times. They have also agreed to remain in close contact to monitor labour market developments, including a joint communications effort focused on employers and workers in the period ahead.