Dealing with lack of work


The outbreak of the COVID-19 Corona Virus is primarily a health issue. Yet it has also had a tremendous impact on practically all organisations, although not to the same extent. Companies are grappling with a bleak reality of falling order books or an outright cessation of work. The objective of this document is to serve as a guide for employers through these troubled times by addressing major employment related matters.

The options for dealing with an idle labour force are:

  • Riding it out: this means retaining the labour force even if current level of business activity is reduced, or at a standstill. Companies resort to this measure under the expectation that when things improve they will be in a better position to hit the ground running. Idle time may be used for training activities. This of course, comes at the cost of paying the workforce during this period.    
  • Forced leave: Companies may resort to giving forced optional leave as a temporary measure to retain the labour force.
  • Unpaid leave: Normally, a period of unpaid leave is resorted to after optional leave has been exhausted.
  • Reduced working week: Consultation with the union and approval from the DIER is necessary in such cases.
  • Reduced wages: Consultation with the union and approval from the DIER is necessary in such cases.
  • Redundancies: This is a last resort. Collective redundancies will need to be negotiated with the Union. In the absence of a union and for companies employing more than 50 employees, the workers representative (obligatory under L.N.10, 2006 Information and Consultation), and approved by the DIER.

As mentioned above, some measures cannot be taken unilaterally, but may involve consultation with the employee affected, negotiations with unions, and/or approval by the DIER. Ensure that the proper procedures are followed in order to avoid problems down the line. Consult with MEA if you need any advice.

Measures related to work organisation, without reducing the workforce may take the form of:

  • Teleworking
  • Introducing/Changing shift system: In some cases, this could be a safety measure to split the labour force into separate teams.