I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. Approximately 227,980 people received a pandemic unemployment payment this week, representing a drop of 254,000, or almost 53%, since February when approximately 482,000 people were in receipt of the payment. We expect many more people to close their PUP over the coming period. The Government has throughout the pandemic done its best to support workers affected by job losses and will continue to do so. That is why, in order to allow as much time as possible for employment to recover, it has been decided to phase the return to normal jobseeker arrangements over an extended period. Accordingly, the PUP rates of payment will remain unchanged until September when they will commence a gradual, phased reduction over six months back to standard jobseeker terms.
We will of course keep this timeline under review as we have always done in the light of the evolving nature of the pandemic. That is why I have announced that the PUP scheme will close to new entrants from 8 July 2021, which is a week later than was previously agreed. This will allow people who may have returned to work this week in preparation for a re-opening next week to access the PUP if they need it.
Where an employee closes their pandemic unemployment payment to return to work but has been temporarily placed on a shorter working week they may be entitled to a jobseeker’s payment or short-time work support.
Short-time work support is a social insurance income support payment provided under jobseeker's benefit. An individual’s eligibility for short-time work support is dependent on the extent to which their working days are reduced. They must be temporarily working a standard reduced weekly work pattern, working three days or less per week, having previously worked full time. The payment is made in respect of the days of work that have been lost and is not taxable.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Where a person is working part-time, up to three days per week, and does not have a standard work pattern he or she may be eligible for jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance for the days he or she is unemployed and is not being paid.
In addition a self-employed person may undertake limited self-employment and retain eligibility for the PUP. Self-employed persons can earn up to €960 over an eight-week rolling period, while retaining their full entitlement to the PUP.
I would advise any person to engage with their Intreo centre to discuss his or her entitlement according to his or her particular circumstances. Separately, under the employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, an employer can receive State support to fund the wages of their staff including in situations of reduced hours of work.