The pandemic unemployment payment or PUP was an emergency measure introduced in the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19 to help cushion the financial impact on people temporarily laid-off work as a direct result of public health measures mandated by the Government. It has been an important support for hundreds of thousands of workers and their families through Covid-19. To date, over €8 billion has been paid out on the PUP to nearly 900,000 recipients.
As part of the national economic recovery plan, the Government announced the extension of the pandemic unemployment payment until February 2022, meaning that a payment that was originally intended to be in place for just 12 weeks will run for almost two years.
In light of the Government decision to defer the lifting of certain public health restrictions on 5 July, I have announced that the PUP scheme will remain open for new applications until 8 July 2021, which is a week later than previously announced. This will ensure staff who may have returned to work this week in anticipation of indoor hospitality reopening on 5 July will have the opportunity to re-apply for the PUP if they need to.
From 8 July people who are laid off should apply online for a standard jobseeker's payment, including the increases for adult and child dependants, as appropriate. In most cases, given people were granted paid social insurance contributions while in receipt of the PUP, people who take up employment from PUP will qualify for jobseeker's benefit in the event that they need to claim a jobseeker's payment in the future.
Given its exceptional nature, there will undoubtedly be some cases where the transition from PUP into employment or onto another welfare payment will give rise to some questions. However, I am pleased to say that our experience has shown that people are willing to return to work as restrictions are eased. This confirms research by the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, that indicates that the vast majority of people choose to take up work rather than remain on welfare even in situations where the financial benefit of working is low or in some cases even when it is negative.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
I also note that in a recent budget perspectives paper the ESRI pointed out that for most people income from employment will exceed the value of the PUP payment. I would also advise the Deputy that 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. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the position with regard to the PUP will be kept under review as the public health advice evolves.