The HSE’s new COVID-19 Contact Tracing App became available on July 6th. Since then, over one million people in Ireland have downloaded it.
While the app aims to stop the spread of COVID-19, it may also impact employers in several ways.
What does the app do, and why should I care?
Well, firstly the app has been developed to identify when one person comes into ‘close contact’ with another. This is based on Bluetooth ‘handshakes’ between their devices. A handshake occurs when one person is within two metres of another person for more than 15 minutes.
If someone tests positive for COVID-19 and confirms their diagnosis on the app, the app will notify all recent close contacts of the infected person.
Under HSE advice, all close contacts are then required to stay home for fourteen days, even if they display no symptoms.
So, what’s my role?
The Government has called on employers to encourage staff to follow the rules and support them in staying away from work if they need to isolate. Given that the app will help facilitate social distancing, encouraging staff to use it is something that you should consider. After all, doing so will help safeguard your workplace.
If you ask staff to use the app, you need to review your IT policies as you may have policies in place that prevent the download of external applications onto company devices.
Another possible consequence of the app is that the more identified close contacts, the more employees will need to take two weeks off work with limited notice. It’s vital therefore that you’re aware of what to do should this situation arise.
You may or may not know this, but there’s no legal obligation for you to pay employees who are absent through illness. This includes any employees advised to self-isolate.
Some employers provide a contractual right to paid sick leave. However, it’s usually capped for a maximum period and reduced by the amount of any Illness Benefit the employee is entitled to claim from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Who’s entitled to COVID-19 Illness Benefit?
Employees advised to self-isolate by the HSE are also entitled to apply for the COVID-19 Illness Benefit. If you don’t provide a contractual right to paid sick leave, employees who are notified that they’re close contacts and required to self-isolate may be entitled to rely on the statutory COVID-19 Illness Benefit. The Benefit is now paid at €350 per week and for a maximum of two weeks where a person is self-isolating.
To receive the COVID-19 Illness Benefit, close contact employees must:
- Be suspected of having COVID-19 and advised by a doctor or the HSE to self-isolate.
- Have confirmation of the direction from the HSE either in text or letter format.
- Have been in paid employment for four weeks prior to making the claim.
As the Government accepts that not everyone contacted will display symptoms, you could consider asking these employees to work from home on full pay during their period of self-isolation.
If this is unfeasible, or they do become unwell, they’ll need to be paid under your sick pay policy or directed to apply for the COVID-19 Illness Benefit for the duration of their two-week self-isolation.
Need our help?
If you would like further complimentary advice on the COVID-19 App from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call. Call us on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.