HR Q&A for Credit Unions Regarding Coronavirus Situation

HR Q&A for Credit Unions Regarding Coronavirus Situation

Measures being adopted or considered


1. Q. What ‘stop the spread of Coronavirus’ measures are credit unions adopting for the health and safety of their staff?


  • Gloves and sanitizers, Perspex on the counter for all frontline staff, plus hand wash/soap and paper towels in all bathrooms, tissue boxes available everywhere, HSE signs and information communicated by all managers regularly, and sanitisers and signage for all members on the counter and in face-to-face meeting plus social distancing applied
  • Disinfect counters, meeting areas and meeting room areas, keyboard, mouse, laptops, desk, phones, mobiles, iPad, printers, scanners, door handles, rails, light switches, etc. – ask each employee to do this regularly and increase frequency of cleaning and include this type of cleaning


2. Q. What other measures are credit unions adopting for the health and safety of their staff and for business continuity?


  • Staggered shifts / working hours (to reduce contact)
  • Staggered breaks (to reduce contact)
  • Split teams – for example, one half of the team working from home this week, the other half at the office (to avoid a whole team going down with Coronavirus)
  • Remote working where possible (to eliminate contact)


3. Q. What measures do we take with staff who are in the high risk category for Coronavirus?


A risk assessment would need to be undertaken and advice from the HSE Hotline/Guidance should be followed.


The high risk group include staff over 60 and those with long-term medical conditions and weakened immune systems such as lung disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.


You should identify what staff have such conditions and if possible, they should work remotely. 


They should be prepared to undertake other duties, perhaps not normally in their role, in order to keep working remotely. If an employee refuses to do different work or to co-operate with the new procedures in these extraordinary times, this could give rise to no work and loss of earnings or disciplinary action (although everyone should be trying to avoid this where possible)



4. Q. What about pregnant women?


A risk assessment would need to be undertaken and advice from the HSE Hotline/Guidance should be followed.


Changes in Work / Reduced Demand / Closure of Offices?

Changes in Work / Reduced Demand / Closure of Offices due to coronavirus?


5. Q. What if we don’t have enough work in the coming weeks?


The measures that are being adopted or considered include:


  • Changes to opening hours / reduced service
  • Working from home and asking people to do other work that is not normally part of their role or increasing the amount of it if it is part of their role e.g. AML, update ID’s etc.
  • Have frontline staff on rotation for filing, scanning, shredding etc. but observing social distancing
  • Using the time to do other work such as update policies etc.
  • Redeployment to other essential duties or duties that keeps employees in paid work
  • Using up banked TOIL
  • Paying people and asking them to work back up hours in the future
  • Taking early annual leave
  • Taking blocks of parental leave
  • Taking parents leave
  • Taking carer’s leave
  • Reduced hours
  • Short-time
  • Lay-off
  • Redundancy


Getting members to sign-up to online banking, direct debits, online lending etc. are critical now for business continuity and service to members.

Working from Home / Parents with Children at Home

Working from Home / Parents with Children at Home



6. Q. What happens now that the children of our staff are sent home from school or their crèche is closed, and young adults are home from college?


Again, measures like working from home, unpaid leave, taking annual leave early, reduced hours, taking parental leave or parents leave without the usual notice periods, working off TOIL built up, working back up extra hours to compensate for payment now in advance, allowing employees to work back up time at a later date, altering shift patterns, etc. may be considered to alleviate the challenges here.


Equally, staff with elderly parents or grandparents or with loved ones with illnesses, may have extra pressures placed on them, and some consideration should be given to this also in terms of how to help alleviate those pressures.


The organisation may also consider using Force Majeure leave to support an employee to provide urgent care for an immediate family member. The Force majeure is normally limited to a maximum of 3 days in 12 months or 5 days in a 36 month period but the government have asked employers to consider allowing the 5 days to be used now or in the coming months.



7. Q. What should I consider regarding staff working from home?


Some key considerations include remote access, security of data, security regarding files and information being taken home (if any) from the office and left in cars, at home and unlocked, GDPR risks, health and safety risks and risk assessments of office space at home need to be completed, security policies and GDPR policies when working from home will need to be reviewed, lone working policies will need updating, and a big effort is required regarding communications with staff when working from home, and staff and team conference calls and regular communications.

Sick Pay


8. Q. What happens if staff have to leave work in order to self-isolate? Who Pays? What are credit unions doing?


While the legislation has yet to be introduced, the government announced that it would increase statutory sick pay from c. €203 to €305 per week and reduce the waiting period from 6 days to 0 days, for a maximum of 2 weeks where medically required self-isolation is needed, or for the full duration of absence from work where the diagnosis is Coronavirus. 


The Government has urged all employers to support the national public health objectives by continuing to pay employees who cannot attend work due to Coronavirus illness or self-isolation the difference between the special Illness benefit and their normal way i.e. topping up the Illness benefit to the level of the employee’s wages.


Read more about it here.


Most credit unions seem to be adopting the approach that they will support this request from government and will top-up the special illness benefit to the level of the normal wage for employees?


The question that arises, for some credit unions, is, does this come from or is it treated separately to the usual sick pay policy. 


Where the normal sick pay policy is for 5-10 days per annum of full sick pay, in most cases the Coronavirus sick pay is treated separately and the ordinary sick pay of say 5-120 days is preserved for the employees. However, in some credit unions, where sick pay is much more significant, it is being part or fully taken from what is an already generous sick pay scheme. However, it is up to each credit union to decide on this for themselves?



9. Q. What about self-quarantine?


Staff may be required to self-quarantine where they are a close contact of someone who has been confirmed with Coronavirus.


In this case, the special illness benefit from the state does not apply i.e. they do not qualify.


The staff member should work from home