I thank the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for taking this matter. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, is in the Seanad dealing with a Bill on social protection.
The issue I wish to raise is the effect on the disposable income of some individuals of the reclassification of Sunday in calculating jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance. A person used to be entitled to claim either jobseeker's benefit or jobseeker's allowance where he or she had not been working for at least four days in seven consecutive days. As a result of a change made in the last budget, we now include Sunday as one of those days in working out how many days an individual has been working and, consequently, the jobseeker's payment to which one is entitled.
Although I fully understand the principle behind the method of calculation, the object of which is to ensure every working day is regarded as equal, I must bring to the Minister's attention a matter raised with me by a constituent. The constituent is working in the service industry for three days each week - Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Owing to the reclassification of Sunday, however, the individual has been hurt very severely. As a consequence, the payment available to the individual has been reduced considerably, from €80 to €26, representing a drop of €54. The change is such that the available social welfare income, in addition to the income from the work done, has decreased substantially.
I am raising this matter because, although I believe every individual is different in terms of income, working days and social welfare payments that may be accessed, the change is too severe if an individual must incur a drop in social welfare of nearly 60%. I ask that we revisit this issue. As the economy and jobs market begin to recover, many new jobs being created will involve part-time employment. For some, a change such as the one in question will reduce the financial incentive to work. I ask that the Minister take this on board. The decrease in income from €80 to €26 is very severe and I would appreciate the Minister's response thereon.