COVID19: Labour Minister warns layoff are unjustified

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Employers cannot justify laying off staff by blaming the coronavirus crisis, as the government will continue to support businesses until the end of the year, said Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou.

Emilianidou argued that employers have no right to sack staff or create redundancies, as the new furlough programme extended to December will subsidise 60% of an employee’s wages, from the national fund.

Speaking to CyBC state radio on Wednesday, the minister said “there is no need for layoffs” amid fears that companies are going ahead with redundancies after the first furlough plan had lapsed.

Emilianidou said that schemes helping businesses keep their staff even though they may have had to close entirely since the outbreak, or for just a month following recent measures, will stretch into December.

She said businesses in Limassol and Paphos under lockdown for 16 days last month will be compensated, either for operating expenses or subsidies for wages.

“What we don’t want to see is the money and effort we have put in to keep a lid on unemployment to go up in smoke.

“Support was given on the condition that no layoffs would be made during this difficult time”.

The minister said that so far €550 mln had been spent on the furlough programme and there are many businesses that have not reopened since the lockdown in March thus benefitting from the fund.

Emilianidou said her ministry was aware of some businesses who have laid off tens of employees but taken the money.

“As we said at the beginning, any business found to have broken the agreement will have to pay that money back to the state.

“We are currently looking into putting cases together against companies who have laid off more than 30 people,” said Emilianidou.

She warned employers they cannot hide behind the legal fine print, as the Labour Ministry is notified when sackings occur as people laid off apply for unemployment benefit.

Emilianidou said the online application system for businesses is simplified, whereby an official auditor’s certificate is no longer needed to prove loss or rapid drop of business income.