I appreciate that. I thank the Deputies for the variety of matters they have raised. I will deal with each of them in turn.
I will deal first with the amendment tabled by Deputy Doherty. I am very much aware of the issue the Deputy has raised. His point was that different parts of our economy are now beginning the slow journey into recovery at very different speeds.
For some parts of our economy that will be a long journey; a journey some have not yet begun. That is why we are making changes to the temporary wage subsidy scheme and making it an economy-wide scheme.
To speak to the Deputy's point, I considered very carefully going down the route his amendment indicates. As I understand it, the amendment endorses an economy-wide approach but would give the Minister for Finance of the day the ability to have sector-wide differentiation if it was judged to be necessary. This was something I considered. In the first phase of putting the Bill together, I considered whether a sector-specific scheme would be the right way to go. As I said, different parts of the economy are now moving at very different speeds.
The difficulty I quickly ran up against was twofold. The first difficulty was how to define a sector in a way as to make it clear legally what companies, employers and parts of the economy are and are not entitled to avail of the scheme. It was so difficult to come up with a legally operable definition of what a sector is that I felt it was not worth pursuing in this particular change because it would only create further difficulties down the line. For example, how would the Government deal with a company or employer that trades in different sectors such as, for example, tourism, transport and retail?
The second difficulty that meant we did not go down this route was that if it was sector specific, it could have raised state aid issues regarding support for some parts of the economy and not others. On a practical level, an issue would quickly develop in respect of which sectors would be left out of the scheme. I have little doubt that if we went down a sector-specific route in designing the scheme, Deputies would ask for sectors to be included and would probably make good points as to why.
I fear that the challenges we have ahead of us are still so great that an economy-wide scheme is still appropriate. As the scheme evolves organically, it may be the case that the scheme will be concentrated in particular sectors, as opposed to it being what it is now, that is, an economy-wide scheme. That is why I am not accepting the amendment and why we did not use that model for the design of the employee wage subsidy scheme.
I will deal with the other issues raised by Deputy Doherty. He raised the issue of the €151.50 floor for this scheme. Having considered the matter, I believe that a floor of €151 is worth putting in place for the employee wage subsidy scheme for two reasons. It is my expectation that employers would look at the choices they have. They can pay people less than €151 and get no subsidy or they can pay them above €151 and get a subsidy of €150.
I want to create a dynamic which is the opposite of what Deputy Doherty said will happen. Employers will realise that if they pay people €145 they will not get a subsidy, but if they pay them €155 the State will make available a subsidy of €150. That will create a dynamic that could be positive in terms of some of the wage issues raised by Deputy Nash. It is the right ceiling to have for a subsidy, with the possibility of creating a dynamic that rewards workers and, I hope, enhances the number of hours they have available to them and the gross wages they take home at the end of a week.
In addition to that, €151.50 equates to 14, 15 or 16 hours on the minimum wage. It correlates to a level of part-time work. If the dynamic to which I have referred happens, that will offer the possibility of the number of hours worked or gross wages increasing.
If that does not happen, I refer the House to sections 28A(4) to (6), inclusive. These provisions give the power to the Minister for Finance, in conjunction with the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and Employment Affairs and Social Protection, to make the variations to the scheme deemed necessary.
After two months of the operation of the scheme, I am required to conduct an assessment of its operation. I have the power to make adjustments that I believe are necessary. This is an issue I will keep under review because it is not my intention that those who suffer in respect of the hours they work or the wages they receive are part-time workers or those on very low incomes. By putting in place this measure, as described, I seek to create a dynamic that moves in the other direction.
Reference was made to proprietary directors. It is correct to say that a provision involves a change to the temporary wage subsidy scheme. It is a standard measure that is being introduced to deal with compliance issues for schemes like this. As has been said by a number of Deputies, in order to be a proprietary director a person has to have more than 50% of the shares issued for his or her company. This scheme is about supporting employees and allowing owners and employers to keep businesses going. This change will not create some of the difficulties to which Deputies have referred but I acknowledge that over the past 24 hours I have received correspondence on this measure from small companies who have raised concerns. It is something I will review as the EWSS gets up and running.
I want to avoid being in a situation where in a few months' time, Deputies ask me why particular forms of directors are benefiting from the scheme. I seek to proactively deal with this issue. I acknowledge that I have received correspondence on the issue and when the scheme is up and running, I will review its impact on smaller employers and directors of small companies. Deputy Shortall raised some issues I have already covered. She also raised the issue of employer PRSI and our PRSI code. I am very much aware of the need to maintain employee PRSI contributions during this period. My understanding is that the subsidy scheme will maintain employee PRSI contributions during the lifetime of its existence.
On the point the Deputy made on employer PRSI, I am aware of the issue she has raised. I was aware of it when I was a Minister in the last Government. We now have to fund sick pay for many citizens very quickly.
The issue raised by the Deputy on employer PRSI is an increasingly fair one and the programme for Government refers to the issue of PRSI contributions. This is not an issue for today, at a time in which we are trying to keep many companies and employers going. We are trying to get our economy back into better condition but it is something we will have to look at in the lifetime of this Government. I am watching debates ensuing elsewhere regarding somebody having to suddenly self-isolate and how he or she will do that if his or her employer does not make certain levels of sick pay available. The issue of how we fund sick pay and some of the issues we have on how we fund better benefits for the self-employed, for example, mean we will have to consider the future of how we fund our social insurance system.
Deputy Shortall also referred to the issue regarding the coding and reference of the employee wage subsidy scheme on employees' pay dockets. I will look at the issues raised by the Deputy and I am aware of issues raised by the Payroll Software Developers Association. That group has been the hidden heroes of implementing this scheme. I want to thank it for the work it did because were it not for the IT ingenuity of its members, we would not have been able to do this. A group of software engineers, over a few days, changed a system we used to collect tax revenue to suddenly make it the system in respect of how we pay people. I want to record again my thanks to them.
The Deputy also referred to significant implementation difficulties. I am not aware of them. Perhaps the Deputy will clarify what they are. This scheme has been really well implemented, very quickly and for many employees, so Deputy Shortall might clarify what they are.
Regarding the issues raised by Deputy Nash on collective bargaining, union representation and the rights of employees, I know they are important. As to why they are not included as qualifying criteria for this scheme, the rationale is that the purpose of this scheme is to keep people in a job and maintain their incomes insofar as we can. I do not want to be in a position where I bring in qualification criteria for the scheme that deal with what I understand and know to be legitimate matters the Deputy has raised, only to suddenly find out that companies are not qualifying for this scheme and employees then lose their jobs because of that. The issues raised by the Deputy need to be the basis. We may make further progress on them and, in fact, will need to make further progress on them in this Dáil but the route to take to do it is not the wage subsidy scheme as it is currently designed. I do not want to make changes to this scheme now that jeopardises jobs across what I fear could be a difficult August and September for many different employers.
To go back to a point made by Deputy Jim O'Callaghan on Second Stage earlier, the dialogue we need to have with employers in future will need to change in the post-pandemic era. As for this scheme, which is now on the statute books, I hope to be in a situation in which I can wind down and close it at some point in my tenure as Minister for Finance, because that would reflect the fact we had got back to a degree of normality within our country in terms of people's incomes, their work and the number of people at work.
I am convinced of the need for a scheme like this and for the principles of a scheme like this to be available to a Government quickly. If this had been in place in those early days when the pandemic hit, we could have acted even quicker. I take responsibility for it not being in place. In the context of a framework like this, it needs to be a quasi-permanent feature of how we support jobs and income when incredibly catastrophic things happen to an economy. In that context, we need a new debate with employers regarding what the other side of the deal will be. While I do not believe this is the place within which we should do it, that debate is coming.