The two main social welfare schemes in my Department for individuals who are unemployed or unable to find full-time work are jobseeker’s benefit and jobseekers allowance. The 2018 Estimates for my Department provide for expenditure this year on the jobseeker’s schemes of €2.17 billion. An Taoiseach, in his previous role as Minister for Social Protection, gave a commitment at Dáil report stage of the Social Welfare Bill 2016 that he would ask officials to examine the issue of jobseeker’s benefit and the treatment of part-time and seasonal workers, including those categorised as having a subsidiary employment. My Department has recently completed a report on the issues of this group which I am currently examining. I want to ensure that any approach taken is fair and sustainable in the long term.
On 7th December 2017, I published the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 which passed through the second stage of the Dáil last week. The Bill delivers on the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to tackle the problems caused by the increased casualisation of work and strengthen the regulation of precarious work.
This very important piece of legislation will improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours in all sectors of employment.
My Department is currently collating data on jobseekers benefit recipients in subsidiary employment. We will have 12 months of data gathered by May 2018 at which point I will be in a better position to make an informed decision on this issue.