Short-time working occurs where an employer reduces an employee’s working hours or pay by more than 50% of their normal or contractual working hours or pay. In essence this reduction will mean that the employee’s earnings will be reduced to less than half the normal weekly earnings or their working hours reduced to less than half the normal weekly working hours. Short-time working can, therefore, be seen as a temporary cost saving measure which can be introduced in order to avoid the need to implement redundancies. In addition, where the employee’s signed contract of employment or signed employee handbook contains a clearly drafted policy allowing the reduction of an employee’s hours in such circumstances then the employer will not require employee consent prior to the temporary reduction. However, where no such policy exists then the employer would require the employee’s express consent to the reduction.
As stated, this is a ‘temporary’ measure whereby there is a temporary shortage of work in the business and the employee will be expected to recommence normal levels of work once their employer has sufficient work to do so. If it is envisaged that there is a ‘permanent’ downturn in work and the employer has no reasonable expectation of being able to provide normal levels of work to the employee in future then redundancy may need to be considered as opposed to short-time unless the employee specifically consents to their hours being permanently reduced. An employee on short-time may also claim redundancy from their employer where they give notice in writing to their employer of this intention to claim and the claim is submitted within four weeks of:-
- the end of a continuous period of short-time of four or more weeks duration; or
- the end of a continuous period of thirteen weeks during which the employee has been on short-time for an aggregate period of six weeks
An employer may be able to counter such an employee request for redundancy provided:
- such counter-notice is communicated to the employee within seven days of that employee’s notice request for redundancy; and
- that employer reasonably expects to be able to provide the employee with a period of thirteen weeks’ continuous employment during which the employee would not be laid off or kept on short time hours; and
- this thirteen week period of continuous employment must begin no later than four weeks from the date the employee served notice of their intention to claim redundancy.
An employee who claims and receives redundancy payment due to short-time is considered to have voluntarily left their employment and therefore not entitled to notice under the minimum notice and terms of employment acts 1973 to 2001.